Earl O’Sullivan (later changed to Sullivan) was born on November 16, 1914, in Mimico. His father, an Irishman, had a love for boxing. There were always boxing gloves around the O’Sullivan household, and Earl and his three brothers would often don the gloves and pretend to be champion boxers. In Grade 9, Sully left school and held numerous jobs over the next 15 years; driving a milk wagon, running a restaurant, operating a moving company, managing a fleet of cabs.
Over these years he boxed under the tutelage of Deacon Allen, a renowned boxing figure in Toronto. Although Sully was not a top-rated boxer, he became enamoured with the gym over the years.
When Deacon Allen passed away in 1964, Sully purchased the Toronto Athletic Club and moved it from 1290 Queen St. W to 109 Ossington Ave., above a car collision repair business. Sully had been operating the club for two years prior to purchasing the boxing club. Along with the physical move, the club also changed its emphasis from a training area for potential pro boxers to a centre for misdirected youth. Sure boxing was taken seriously, but it was now a vehicle for helping youth get on the right track rather than boxing alone.
Over the next 45 years, Sully touched the lives of thousands of people. He preached discipline and respect. There was no drinking, swearing or gambling around Sully or his Centre. He connected with people because he never spoke down to anyone and offered the same respect he expected from others. He was always scrambling for funds to run the gym and he insisted on not charging underprivileged youth admission to his club.
He received some grants from the City of Toronto, but it was not enough to cover the rent and he still had to come up with funds for operating expenses. Countless nights Sully was awakened by the police who would have one of his pupils in custody and Sully never shirked from his self imposed responsibility. He became known to the police, lawyers, judges, probation officers and city officials. He was well respected in the community for his humanitarian deed, and often trouble-prone kids got a second chance in life because of Sully.
Some of the stories about Sully captured in Toronto’s newspapers and magazines are replete with his unwavering commitment and compassion for the youths who passed through his centre. A board of Directors, many of whom knew Sully personally, are keeping his dream alive by continuing Sully’s Recreation & Athletic Centre as a non-profit organization whose aim is to help underprivileged Youth overcome life diversities by instilling values inherent to boxing and other athletic activities.
As a non-profit organization, Sully’s Recreation & Athletic Centre expect to solicit donations from corporations and individuals to provide necessary funding for this valuable vehicle to assist youth who may be encountering difficult times. The centre will operate with the values of the man whose namesake it carries.