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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: August 20, 2012 @ 6:07 pm

    Books to get you punch drunk

    Laurence Mackin

    Katie Taylor’s story is one the most inspiring to come out of Irish sport in years, and boxing has always been one of the richest sporting seams that writers have mined. Here’s just a few boxing cultural moments worth sparring with.

    On Boxing by Joyce Carol Oates

    This lightweight of a novella (and we are strictly talking page count) can punch the lights out of most heavier competitors. Oates turns her laser-like focus to boxing, and attacks it from a number of angles, all undercut with a deeply rooted love of the sport. A stunning piece of work, whether you’re a fan of boxing or not.

    The Fight by Normal Mailer

    Even the most cursory of lists couldn’t fail to have Mailer’s definitive work on the card. The book focuses on the 1975 World Heavyweight Boxing Championship in Kinshasa, Zaire when Muhammad Ali took on and beat George Foreman when he was at the height of his formidable power. Brilliant, wild and dazzling, it has often being copied, but probably never quiet bettered.


    Mailer and Ali go toe to toe


    Boxing: A Cultural History by Kasia Boddy

    Why does boxing matter so much to so many? This is what Kasia Boddy sets out to answer in this exhaustive study of why so many artists and writers have been seduced by pugilism. Packed with anecdotes, heavy on research, this is 500 pages of pure punching power.

    Four Kings by George Kimball
    George Kimball’s column in The Irish Times was essential reading for any avid sports fan, and this book is one of his best works. It focuses on four fighters who transformed the sport in the 1980s, and paved the way for it to become the most lucrative game there is. Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran fought each other nine times in the 1980s, and collected 16 world titles between them. This book focuses on these titanic fights, some of which have gone down in history as the greatest battles ever boxed.

    Fat City by Leonard Gardner

    It might be a novel, but few books better capture the sport in all its tawdry glory, and illustrate why it ignites such passion, even at the lower rungs of the sport. People are drawn to the ring as the ultimate physical challenge, but it leaves few survivors intact. John Huston made this into a terrific film; but the source material is pure dynamite.


    True grit: Fat City

    A Fighter’s Heart by Sam Sheridan

    This is a curious and enthralling book – Sheridan is a solid writer, even if he lacks the eloquence or the originality of the greats, and here he tackles several types of fighting, from MMA and ultimate fighting, to strong chapters on boxing and even dog fighting (the latter is particularly surprising and illuminating). The book revolves around his own constant training and love of brawling, and his personal journey to understand why he loves getting in the ring. It moves from raw and bloody to humble and heartfelt, and punches well above its weight.


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