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Gentleman Jim is set in the late nineteenth century, an era before boxing was considered an actual sport. This biography follows the life of James J. Corbett (Errol Flynn), an amateur boxer who rose to fame in one of the first professional leagues with his dazzling footwork and flawless technique. After wealthy businessmen in San Francisco pressure the Olympic Club to adopt the sport of boxing under strict new rules, they need a man who they can showboat. James fills this role well, but after tensions mount, they decide they would rather do without him. Surprisingly enough, he is able to defeat larger and stronger men than himself after being put set up to fight with opponents to which he was guaranteed to lose. Eventually he finds himself at the top, in the world championship. In this match he is pitted against his former idol and role model, John L. Sullivan (Ward Bond).