Reading about boxing is something many of us do on a daily basis. Our desire to stay informed means that we bookmark our favourite websites and tailor our social media accounts to follow our preferred writers so that we don't miss the latest article. We keep an eye on what else is being written to ensure we stay up to date with any breaking news and can participate in current debates which at times seem endless.
This is all well and good but recently I was wondering if the enormous amount of articles and information, available literally at our fingertips, has meant that the good old fashioned habit of reading a book about boxing is perhaps not as common as it once was. (I am fully aware of the irony of writing these words on this platform).
Many books have been and continue to be written about our sport; indeed some of the finest books I have read have had boxing or boxers as their subject matter. Autobiographies, biographies, assortments of articles and works focusing on one era in boxing have all held my attention over the years.
For this article I have selected eight of my favourite books about pugilism. Chances are that many readers will be familiar with these publications but perhaps one or two hidden gems will emerge from the list and provide a reader with an enjoyable reading experience.
With Christmas fast approaching maybe someone will get an idea and make a purchase for a fellow boxing fan in their life – or give one of these books as a gift to a loved one just getting into the sport.
This list is not a one to eight raking of these writings, just merely a nod to eight of the finest boxing books I have read. Happy reading….
MCILVANNEY ON BOXING by Hugh McIlvanney – first published in 1996 this is a compilation of articles from the highly respected Scottish journalist. Most of the pieces are from his work for The Observer and The Sunday Times newspapers. Featured in the selection are ringside reports from such classics as The Rumble In The Jungle and Leonard vs. Hearns 1 as well as quality writing on Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis and Roy Jones Jr. to name but a few. A marvellous assembly of essays and reports from an outstanding sportswriter.
THE GODS OF WAR by Springs Toledo – founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and boxing historian Toledo writes with flair, his essays draw you in and I always feel slightly sad upon reaching the end of one, sad that the writing does not continue forever. The articles which make up his top ten boxers of the modern era, his “Gods Of War,” are impossible to stop reading. I could not put this book down until I had reached the end of the countdown.
FOUR KINGS by George Kimball – award winning American journalist George Kimball covers the era of Leonard, Hearns, Hagler and Duran and the nine fights they had with one another in thrilling fashion. A genuine page turner, this is mandatory reading for boxing fans of all ages.
SUGAR RAY by Sugar Ray Robinson and Dave Anderson – the autobiography of the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson offers exceptional detail into the life and career of a man considered by many to be the finest boxer of all time. I especially liked this book as being a fairly young man it gave me a sense of how the sport and society was during the period of time over which Robinson fought.
DARK TRADE: LOST IN BOXING by Donald McRae – an excellent account of McRae's five year journey following the sport of boxing, certain boxers and managers/promoters. The author gained access to interview many fighters, most notably Mike Tyson, Naseem Hamed and James Toney all while wrestling with his own issues regarding being drawn into the world of boxing. This book gets better the more I read it.
RINGSIDE: A TREASURY OF BOXING REPORTAGE by Budd Schulberg – an outstanding collection of writing from a master of his craft. Schulberg's articles take us on a journey from a contest over 200 years ago up to more modern exchanges such as De La Hoya vs. Trinidad and Hatton vs. Tszyu. Magnificent – a must read!
HANDS OF STONE: THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF ROBERTO DURAN by Christian Giudice – comprehensive biography on the boxer known as “Hands Of Stone.” Well researched and full of detail this book is the beginning, middle and end for anyone interested in the great Panamanian boxer.
THE SWEET SCIENCE by A.J. Liebling – a very famous boxing book. A compilation of the writer's articles and reports on boxing for The New Yorker magazine. Regarded by many as the best ever to write about our sport reading this book made me seek out more of Liebling's work. The pieces gathered here certainly support the opinion that Liebling is top of the mythical all time pound for pound boxing scribbler rankings. Mesmeric writing.
> Introduced to boxing by watching as a teenager with his Dad, Morrison really began to appreciate the sport during the Lennox Lewis era from the mid 1990s. Since those days he has developed into a passionate boxing fan, enjoying all styles of the fight game. His favourite fight is Barrera-Morales 1 and when time allows he enjoys travelling to attend big fights. Morrison began writing about the sport in July 2016. He hails from Scotland, United Kingdom where he lives with his wife and two children and can be found on Twitter @Morrie1981.