So-called 'sports books' tend to be fairly pedestrian affairs. They are usually crawling, ghost written eulogies or serial anecdotes, riddled with 'at the end of the day' type cliches. Urgh! But in 'Looking for a Fight' David Matthews has transcended the sports genre to create, in my mind at least, the most entertaining, illuminating and engaging book I've ever read on boxing, or any sport for that matter. Matthews tackles the murky world of the fight game (and his own personal struggles) with an intelligence and wit rarely seen in contemporary sports writing. In fact, to saddle Looking for a Fight with the epithet 'sports book' is a disservice to Matthews whose gritty, almost noir-ish style makes this a thrilling, pacey read.
I've always found hardbacks poor travelling companions but I had no difficulty reading this 300-odd page book from cover to cover during the course of a six-hour transatlantic flight.
Beginning with a simple 'what if?' premise, and the desire to understand the physical and mental workings of the professional boxer, the author takes us on a two-year roller coaster ride, which from start to finish illustrates the best and worst of the human condition.
This is a must read; not only for fans of boxing, but anyone interested in human struggle, triumph over adversity and man's pursuit of happiness.
Unlike many sports books (there's that term again) which seek to bolster their narrative (and sales) with endlessly repeated stories of superstar heroics or celebrity failings, Looking for a Fight tells it as it is: in the raw, from the bottom, warts and all.
If Roy of the Rovers simplicity is your thing then this is probably not the book for you. The language for one is relentless in its accuracy of the gym and the street: Matthews is a colourful and brutally honest writer. But if you can appreciate the style and intelligence of Hemmingway, Mailer or Damon Runyon Looking for a Fight should certainly grace your bookshelf.