The sport of boxing is filled with shady characters, flawed champions, and tragic tales.  So maybe it’s not surprising that the sport of boxing has also inspired some very good writing.  In At the Fights, editors John Schulian and George Kimball have collected their favorite stories about boxing, including articles they wrote themselves.

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Bill’s Thoughts on At the Fights

I’ve read a number of collections of fine writing on boxing, and that’s okay with me, as long as they all contain “Down Great Purple Valleys,” by John Lardner, and “Brownsville Bum,” by W.C. Heinz.

At The Fights includes both of those gems, and lots of others by writers as different from each other as Norman Mailer and Joyce Carol Oates, who are both represented.

The editors, John Schulian and George Kimball, each have stories in the book as well, which is fine, because they are both excellent stories.

I have heard lots of explanations for the fact that boxing has provoked more good writing than any other sport. Boxing is elemental. Boxing is full of characters, many of whom are happy to discuss themselves, real or imagined. Because somebody can be battered into unconsciousness or death at any moment, boxing causes a more intoxicating rush of adrenaline than a homerun or a last minute basket can provoke.

I don’t know which, if any, of these circumstances explains why there is so much good boxing writing. I do know that the writing in At The Fights is entertaining and powerful, whether those doing the work are focused on champions, has-beens, frauds, trainers, managers, (Wait…did I already mention frauds?), or their fellow scribes.

I think this book is terrific, and I don’t even like boxing.