Steve Bunce is a great journalist and is someone i have read, listened to and admired for over 15 years. His knowledge of boxing is second to none and his verbose energetic style is something i have enjoyed repeatedly in print via Boxing Monthly, radio and of course as a TV pundit. To his credit, that singular style is something he infuses throughout the book and this book works at its best when dealing with the history and anecdotal stories of the fight game. It's a shame this was't written as his observations, opinions and memoirs (his and others) of the fight game as it would have been a great read. As good a journalist as Bunce is, he's no thriller writer... sorry.
Sadly the hamfisted story rather gets in the way of the boxing stuff - its a linear chronological procession from one set piece to another where the protaganist meets other 'old timers' and Bunce then wax's lyrical and frankly goes on a bit. The editor needs to be taken to one side and a quiet word had, to often there a repetitions and descriptions can drone on. The old fella on the plane is the most drastic example, some 15 pages of repeated sentiment, then he's gone, never to darken the stories pages again. This is the heart of the problem, poor 'novelised'character development. There are no characters you have any great like or empathy for and because the premise is fundamentally weak and poorly realised there is no real threat or tension. You don't buy into the back story as it just told to you by transient characters, alot of tell and little show. The twist is a little telegraphed but the action when it comes is done well.
Bunce can can write and is best when he gives his opinion, there are large chunks of this book that are just that - his view of boxing, a lot of real events and some where names and locations have been thinly disguised. This is where the boook is good. The story of money, hitmen and gangsters hammered around it, works less well. All that said i finished it and know boxing fans will get a lot from it - i'm less sure seasoned thriller readers will. Adios.