Think what you will of white-collar boxing, but read Alex Wades' beautifully written book before venting those views. Wade, a solicitor with a C.V. that reads like a chapter out of Legal Londons' Whoes Who, had it all and threw it all away.
Boxing was his salvation. But this book is about far more than just boxing. It is about life, law, self-destruction and squaring up to ones demons.
Dramatic and torturous as his separation from the profession may have been, Wade had to piece together his life, the morning after the night before. Boxing, self-discipline, his duties as a father and a desire to save his marriage all played their part.
Of late white-collar boxing has been quietly attracting a gentle trickle of participants from the Judiciary, the Bar and the Solicitors profession to spar with fellow city professionals. The unlikely migration from the rarefied air conditioned cerebral world of the top floor city offices to the chilly brick cellars resounding to the pounding metered out to punch bags and pugilists alike started on Wall Street. Spreading to London, the trickle turned into a veritable stream, such that one promoter mooted the prospect of a Wall Street V. City tournament. Amidst all this Wade ponders the reasons for why those of us who've spent a life time amongst books should take that brave and lonely step into the ring. Perhaps boxing is the physical manifestation of litigation. Many courtroom metaphors have their origins in the ring. Wade explores the similarities eloquently and in detail. Drawing on his experiences with Peter Carter Ruck and Partners as well as his work as a night lawyer with Fleets Streets' finest he recalls the headlines from some of our most celebrated cases. How `heavy weight Q.C.'s go toe to toe' or how a day in court may leave a litigant `on the ropes'. The Adversarial system simply encourages this kind of cerebral bout. But Wade is not out of love with the .."Law per se, but rather because of the way it is, its annihilation of integrity in favour of billable hours..."
Wade is able to set boxing in context against a range of more conventional feet's of human endeavour, particularly art (he is married to an abstract painter). As one might expect from the son of a successful solicitor, product of a prep school and one time Oxbridge candidate, Wade's contacts are not all typical fighting fodder. As he achieves in the world of boxing his contacts simultaneously achieve playing Rackmaninovs Piano Concerto No.3 or as a Jazz Guitarist. And whilst writing a review for the Independent on Sunday Wade notes" The hands of the man who studied the bruised flesh of Dave `Boy' McAuley's face and moulded it into a monumental lump of bronze were large and white". A boxer notes the hands of sculptor, as well he might. To both the hand is precious and beautiful. To mould, to jab or to row "across the slate-grey water of Lough Erne".
A writer's life is an interesting one and Wade manages to combine law, literature and boxing. Whether working as a sports rights agent in Albania or whilst driving passed the gates of the Enniskillen Royal School, (The latter was of course responsible for the education of Oscar Wilde). Wade takes the reader through a blow by blow account of how Wilde came to square up in court to the Counsel for the God Father of Boxing; the Marquess of Queensbury. In a disastrous libel action brought by Wilde he was to feel how words can be more brutal than a left hook and probably felt that he'd suffered an eloquential knock out.
And this eloquence from Wade himself whilst he trains and drinks and trains. In the boxing ring he meters out and receives punishment brought to the reader in a style that would make Hemingway proud. In the ring of life he finally corners his demons, puts them on the ropes and leaves them on the canvas.
Alex Wades' career as a writer is assured.