A surprising mix of boxing lovers comment on the sport in a unique collection featuring contributions by Nellie Bly, Ernest Hemingway, Rocky Marciano, Joyce Carol Oates, Plato, Ring Lardner, Virgil, and plenty of others.
No other sport can boast a body of literature that begins with Homer, Theocritus, and Plato; advances through Virgil; matures through the pens of O. Henry, Jack London, and George Bernard Shaw; and flourishes in the hands of Hemingway, Norman Mailer, and David Remnick. But then, boxing is this type of primal experience that it draws a distinctly muscular prose from writers who’ve gotten close enough to stand toe to toe and take it on.
W.C. Heinz, one of the vital 20th century’s towering sports writers, and Nathan Ward have pulled together a remarkable literary stable of fiction, reportage, poetry, profiles, essays, and commentaries to build a tome worthy of being known as The Book of Boxing. It’s an anthology with a punch, certainly; but like boxing itself, it is aboutboth art and strength, finesse and force, defeat and victory. Fight aficionados will find numerous old friends here: all the above, for starters, plus Frank Menke’s classic account of the Dempsey-Firpo brawl, Jimmy Cannon, Joe Louis, Mark Kram on the Thrilla in Manila, and James T. Farrell’s brutal short story, “Twenty-Five Bucks.” But you would not have to be a fight fan to appreciate the action; aficionados of good writing will have to just take a ringside seat and get ready to be knocked out over and over again. –Jeff Silverman