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on 20 October 2008
I share the first reviewer's scoring for this book, although not his affection for the brutal end of the sport. Rather, the history of boxing (like that of its poorer cousin, pro wrestliing, and its travelling companion, the mafia) fascinates me for sociological reasons. I agree that the author has omitted to choose his preference, but he's hinted at it by listing them Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran and I'd guess this matches the public perception, with SRL at the head due to his show-biz image and the rest in that sequence due to the results of high-profile contests among the four. I personally favour Hagler, who first caught my attention by thrashing the evidently-overrated A. Minter, and Hearns, who upset me late on by beating the quiety capable Dennis Andries. Each line of this book drips with detail, and you could argue that the author is simply thumbing through results in Ring magazine except that asides and qualifications confirm that he's "been there". While the switching back and forth between the four angle characters can be hard to keep up with -- and the incidental biogs of supporting characters even more so, so that I had to backtrack -- this amount of detail makes the book more "liveable". The author is also frank about the seamier side of the fight game, suicidally so with some attestations. A good read for anyone who enjoys evocative newsreel of this atmospheric sport. (Dave)
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on 9 January 2016
At its beautiful best, boxing can be a noble battle of the mind, a struggle for dominance using skill and wit, and a gargantuan test of human fitness, heart and endurance. At its worst, it's full of braggarts, money spinners, bullies and hate. In the post Ali late 70s, boxing was tending towards ugliness. During the 80s, these four riveting fighters (Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns), brought back some of the vanishing beauty. And drama, pathos, poetry, and romance.

The four boxers couldn't be any more different: Sugar Ray smooth, graceful, all jazz and soul, Duran tough, dirty, raw and playful, Marvellous Marvin a shaven headed macho bullet, and Hearns the talented classy Detroit gentleman.

This is a great, thrilling ride through the years when these four were kings of the ring. Kimball writes with the easy flow of a fine sports journalist, with an eye for noirish detail and a sly humour ("a Panamanian street dog had stopped Ken Buchanan with a punch to the family jewels"). There's a hint of Hemingway in the clipped punchy sentences. An atmosphere thick with cigar smoke and the dull thud of gloved fist thumping hard flesh. He records the poetry of boxing; describing rounds as "stanzas" and gifted dancing moves as "pirouettes". The first Leonard/Hearns fight is said to be "a symphony in five distinct movements".

Kimball himself could have stepped right out of Damon Runyon - ex hippy poet turned shabby sportswriter, losing an eye in a bar room brawl (may not be true), Lucky Strike chain smoker permanently hustling a deadline.

It's a ringside seat that pulls no punches, and takes us to the gyms, promoter's offices, restaurants and lounge bars where deals are made, and to over heated TV broadcasts in saturated blood heavy 80s colour. (And thanks to the ubiquity of YouTube, all these fights are quickly located - the commentary on the first round takedown of Leonard vs Andy Price is timeless).

This is Dashiell Hammett for the baby boomers. Writers who can capture this pace and excitement seem long gone, and the boxing ring now seems a detached, hostile place, lacking glamour or style. A much missed era.
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on 4 February 2009
I like how honest the author is. He doesn't pander to Ray Leonard like many of authors and journalists tend to. That is not to say Ray Leonard's skill and ability are overlooked by the author. Hearns, Hagler, Duran and Leonard are all treated equally and unbiasedly by the author.
My only "complaint" (without wishing to sound like a 9 year old boy) was I would have liked more photographs of the pugilists.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the period of boxing, it really is excellently written, many insightful comments and completely without prejudice to any of the four legends.
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on 2 March 2016
George Kimball's book on what for many is the last great boxing era, especially the middleweight division, is a fine book. Amusing, well written and very interesting, one of those books you don't want to end. Kimball covers the history Hagler, Duran, Hearns and Leonard created, the boxers' own individual history, insight into their characters, the build up and showdown of their fights, all written with such flow. It is a shame that George Kimball never followed the book up with one on Hagler himself. He is an interesting character.
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on 12 August 2014
Excellent book. I was lucky enough to be a boxing fan during the era of these four "greats". The information provided in this book is outstanding. It has told me things I never knew about them. An informative read and it still captures the excitement of the boxing matches and the difference in personalities/styles. This book goes into the bookcase so I can re-read it. Brilliant.
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on 29 February 2016
Terrific look at the tightly interconnected bouts between these four legends, packed with real insider stories from George Kimball, who was clearly a very prominent name on the scene. Only gripes are it's a bit Americancentric (bit disaparaging towards Brits in much the same way as King of the World author David Remnick is in his book) and also that after giving each fight a terrific build-up he then, just as they are about to begin, seemingly as a matter of principle reveals who won! Total spoiler, and killed the tension as I didn't know who won any of those fights and the way he describes them is riveting. Total own goal...
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on 1 October 2012
I thought this book was superb. A really engrossing account of 4 of the greatest boxers that ever laced a pair of gloves. I enjoyed the background detail of each fighter and the excellent descriptions of the big fights. It seemed like a fair and balanced account of the 4 fighters and the classic bouts between them. Definitely recommended for fight fans.
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on 3 March 2013
This is a fascinating read. The author strikes a great balance around the events of each fight. He brings the fights alive from a very neutral perspective and although your expecting a favourite to emerge, he doesn't seem to have one, giving each boxer the up most respect in their roles. Although I'm old enough to remember the fights,memories fade and this book brings them back to life. An excellent read. Thank you.
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on 11 June 2016
This is one of my favourite boxing books, the author is very good at describing the action however you want to have a phone with you to watch some of the amazing fights described. Only negative is that you'll wish modern boxing was as exciting as this era of fighters.
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on 22 January 2013
A cracking account of pugilist reportage from a guy I'd never heard of before. Boxing aficionados shall grip these pages with enthusiasm as Kimball writes with an acute attention to detail and a great sense of drama. As regards to the actual physical orm of the book it was a bit tattered but that was what I expected, innit.
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