Jerry Fitch and John J. Raspanti are respected writers who have been on the boxing beat for decades. Their book, “A Few More Rounds: A Collection of Boxing Tales,” which was published in October 2020 by KO Publications, pays homage to the sport they love and have chronicled so eloquently for all their adult lives.
The book is delightful, whimsical, and extremely personal.
Fitch describes meeting middleweight champ Tony Zale in Washington, D.C. in 1974. He and the Man of Steel’s feisty second wife, Philomena, who the champ referred to as “Mighty Mouth,” developed a friendship that lasted right up until her death in 1992. Zale, who by then had cognitive issues, passed away five years later.
Fitch recalls Philomena, who was living in the Chicago area with her husband, telling him about receiving a call from a Texas newspaper. The reporter was inquiring about the death of an alcoholic drifter who had been impersonating Zale for 25 years to get free drinks.
Zale was known to never imbibe alcohol, which prompted Philomena to wisecrack, “If my husband is down there, who’s sleeping with me here?”
Raspanti in A Few More Rounds speaks lovingly of his father, who fought in the Chicago Golden Gloves, imparting his love of boxing on his son. While still a youngster, his father managed to get into the Windy City’s Comiskey Park just in time to see Joe Louis stop James J. Braddock to win the heavyweight title in June 1937.
Fitch describes the thrill of meeting Anton Christoforidis, who brought immense pride to the Greek populace in Cleveland after winning a light-heavyweight title from Melio Bettina in 1941.
Their encounter resulted in Raspanti and his family being embraced by the Greek community in some interesting ways.
Fitch in A Few More Rounds wrote scores of articles about the great Jimmy Bivins but admits to being fascinated by “bits and pieces I still discover about him.”
Over the years he met numerous opponents of Bivins, including Joe Louis, Jersey Joe Walcott, Lloyd Marshall, Ezzard Charles, Joey Maxim, and Archie Moore, all of whom provided additional insight on his favorite subject.
Raspanti traveled to California’s Bay Area, where he hung out with welterweight contender Karim Mayfield and got to know Andre Ward and his trainer Virgil Hunter, as Ward prepared for his fight against Mikkel Kessler of Denmark in Oakland in November 2009.
Fitch wrote about the “mixed emotions” associated with meeting boxing greats, only to find or hear of many of them suffering from brain damage. He ultimately developed a decade-long friendship with Jimmy McLarnin, who defeated 12 of the 13 world champions he faced and died at age 97 in 2004.
Whether recounting cherished memories of fighters appearing at the fabled Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, crazy nights and fights at the relatively new StubHub Center in Carson, California, landmarks and live boxing in Carson City, Nevada, keeping in touch with champions and contenders for decades, remembering forgotten 1950s middleweight contenders such as Rory Calhoun, Ernie Durando, Eugene Hairston, and Holly Mims, or describing five must-see boxing movies, the writing in A Few More Rounds by both authors is whimsical, breezy, and very readable.
Despite sometime searing depictions of racism, hate, retribution, and loyalty, each of the book’s 20 chapters leaves the reader feeling enthralled and satisfied.
Noted boxing historian Mike Silver, whose most recent book, “The Night the Referee Hit Back: Memorable Moments from the World of Boxing,” described “A Few More Rounds” as “a delightful and entertaining love letter to the sport of boxing.”
In the book’s foreword, Nigel Collins, the former editor-in-chief of The Ring magazine and an International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee, said the authors’ “love of the sport shines through on every page.”
With writers like Fitch and Raspanti behind the keyboard, boxing is in exceptionally good hands.
“A Few More Rounds” is available on Amazon.com.