How to do you review a book about Boxing when you are not a keen boxing fan ?
- Steve Bunce
Well with an open mind
its a big old Book, packed tight with facts, hardcore knowledge and insight 436 pages and and 51 high class pictures.
On first examination you are greeted by a picture of the Author , a large geezer looking malevolently at you, of course in reality Steve Bunce is nothing of the sort, I took the trouble to listen to a few of his podcasts and he comes across as erudite, well informed, and truly in love with the art of the pugilist, his book is both a labour of love and a Eulogy to the boxing greats both living and dead
A North London lad by birth, although now lives up in the North ( nobodys perfect !) and is well know for writing in all of the major newspapers and commentating on the major bouts.
Reading his book brought back so many forgotten memories of childhood, sitting with my Uncle and listening to the Cassius Clay-Henry Cooper fight on the radio , I probably should have been in bed, but the excitement was too much for my Uncle and Grandfather. Reading Steve's book gives you a valuable insight into the character of both men, their respective backgrounds, and fighting methods.
One thing I enjoyed about this book, is the way Steve writes about each fight, giving you the background to the fight, the promoters and their tricks, how the fight panned out and the referees decisions; then he tells you about the hangers on, the tricks played by the press, and the Wives, often they are more of a handful than the boxers !
Fights behind the Iron curtain were so heavily loaded and swayed against UK boxers that I am amazed they tried.
Also he adds little vignettes from his notepad, that where the real gems are, his ringside knowledge and insight into the sport and its movers and shakers: little things that make it more informative, such as the Referee Harry Gibbs background as a POW in Poland after being captured at Dunkirk, it probably shaped him and made him a hard man to argue with.
Little footnotes from the dressing room where Ali's coach had to beg another boxer to allow him to share his room, and how modest Ali was and is throughout his fighting career ( one of my all time heroes).
It is nice to see all of the smaller local boxing clubs mentioned and the various boxers who trained with them and went onto great careers, London I knew about, but other parts of the UK were not on my radar. Until reading this book I had not realised that Joe Bugner was in fact Hungarian, I thought he was a Brit.
This book covers the period from 1970 right up to 2016, as you read through you realise how much has changed in the sport, and how much the background men with the money and influence weighed heavy on the sports early days
Names that I had forgotten about popped up, although not a boxing fan these are names from my youth, and it was interesting given the passing of time to hear exactly what went on in the background, thing you never heard in those pre internet days.
I would recommend this book to any one with an interest in sport, even if you are not interested in boxing, you will enjoy it and the little nuggets tucked away will both inform and educate you; a cracking read to go with a glass of good whisky and a roaring fire.