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Noted Boxing Buffs Name Their Favorite Boxing Book

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 If you happen to have a lot of time on your hands (and, unfortunately, many of us do) this might be a good time to cuddle up with a good book. If you are like us, you promised yourself that you would get acquainted with a particular author, but somehow never found the time. Well, now just may be the right time to fulfill that promise.

And it just so happens that we have a ready-made list of recommendations.

In August of 2017, TSS writer Ted Sares reached out to more than two dozen noted boxing buffs and asked them to name their favorite boxing book. Many felt compelled to name more than one, which was fine with us. We thought this would be a good time to re-visit Ted’s survey.

Yes, we know that bookstores and libraries are closed right now throughout most of the English-speaking world, but almost every title can be found on Amazon and some of the classics – even books prized by collectors – can be acquired very cheaply from independent online booksellers who specialize in used books. Their ranks have mushroomed in recent years.

We listed Ted’s correspondents alphabetically by their last name. Here are their picks:

JIM AMATO (writer, historian): A.J. Liebling’s “The Sweet Science.”

RUSS ANBER (elite trainer, corner man, and TV personality): “Joe Louis -Black Hero in White America” by Chris Mead. I remember reading this from cover to cover, unable to put it down. Others: “The Greatest Fight of Our Generation” by Lewis A. Erenberg, “The Sixteenth Round” by Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, “Beyond Glory” by David Margolick.

JOE BRUNO (former New York Tribune sportswriter; author of more than 45 crime-related books, including true crime, novels and screenplays): AJ Liebling’s “The Sweet Science.”

TRACY CALLIS (eminent boxing historian, writer, and journalist): Seven come quickly to mind. I love to read about boxing so I like almost any book about the game.

“A Man among Men” by Kelly Richard Nicholson

“Chicago’s Greatest Sportsman” by Mark T. Dunn

“Hitters, Dancers and Ring Magicians” by Kelly Richard Nicholson

“In the Ring with Bob Fitzsimmons” by Adam Pollack

“In the Ring with James J. Jeffries” by Adam Pollack

“The Choynski Chronicles” by Chris LaForce

“Ultimate Tough Guy” by Jim Carney Jr.

STEVE CANTON (A member of the International Boxing Research Organization, Steve has been involved in every aspect of boxing for more than 52 years): There are so many excellent boxing books. “Only The Ring Was Square” by Teddy Brenner with Barney Nagler was outstanding. “Bummy Davis vs. Murder Inc.” by Ron Ross, “Boxing Babylon” by Nigel Collins, just to name a few.

WILLIAM DETLOFF (former amateur boxer, author, editor of Ringside Seat magazine): I’ll go with Liebling’s “The Sweet Science.” Wiley’s anthology is certainly up there. It’s underrated.

JILL DIAMOND (boxing writer, official, and matchmaker): BOX: “The Face of Boxing” by Holgar Keifel because I love a good photography book. “Four Kings” by George Kimball. In fiction, “The Harder They Fall” by Budd Schulberg. There are so many others.

BERNARD FERNANDEZ (boxing writer and lifetime member of the BWAA): It’s a tough call. There are a lot of good ones floating around, but I’ll go with John Schulian’s “Writers’ Fighters and Other Sweet Scientists.” But then I’m kind of biased as John, a colleague of mine for a time at the Philadelphia Daily News, is a friend.

IVAN GOLDMAN (ex-Washington Post and LA Times newspaperman, boxing writer, novelist): I humbly submit my novel “The Barfighter” for consideration.

Dr. MARGARET GOODMAN (President of VADA, former Nevada boxing official, neurologist, author): Actually my novel “Death in Vegas” is my favorite book as it tells the truth about the sport via thinly-veiled fiction. Writing it was very cathartic.

LEE GROVES (boxing writer, author): If I had to pick one, it would be “McIlvanney on Boxing” by Hugh McIlvanney. Anytime I want to get a booster shot of excellent, muscular prose, that’s what I read. The two A.J. Liebling books “The Sweet Science” and “The Neutral Corner” also provide inspiration.

KEVIN IOLE (Yahoo combat sports writer): I loved “The Fight” by Norman Mailer, which I found to be a well-reported, gripping tale of one of the seminal events of my youth. I also loved “Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times” by Thomas Hauser and “Fight of the Century” by Michael Arkush.

MIGUEL ITURRATE (TSS writer and Senior Archivist at The Boxing Channel): I really enjoy the history books, especially biographies. Battling Nelson’s autobiography is a good one. I also really enjoyed “Muldoon: The Solid Man of Sport” by Edward Van Every.

Dr. STUART KIRSCHENBAUM (former amateur boxer; co-founder National Association of Boxing Commissioners): “Empire of Deceit” by Dean Allison. It’s a fascinating true story of the Wells Fargo Bank embezzlement by boxing promoter Harold Smith. I had dealings with him while I was the head of the boxing commission in Michigan. He promoted several Kronk championship fights. Cast of characters include Muhammad Ali, Thomas Hearns, and a who’s who of that era. Only in America and only in boxing… crime does pay.

HAROLD LEDERMAN (famous boxing judge, member of HBO team, and 2016 IBHOF inductee): “All Time Greats Of Boxing” by Peter Arnold is my favorite boxing book because it’s a great book.

FRANK LOTIERZO: (TSS writer emeritus): I can’t pick a favorite….so I’ll give you a few of my favorites that I’ve read this summer. “In This Corner” by Peter Heller which I read for the third time; “Sugar Ray Robinson” with Dave Anderson, “Joe Louis: The Great Black Hope” by Richard Bak, “Hard Luck: The Triumph and Tragedy of Jerry Quarry” by Steve Springer and Blake Chavez

ARNE LANG (historian, author, editor-in-chief of The Sweet Science): Many years ago I stumbled on a book called “Bella of Blackfriars” in a used book store in Carlsbad, California. Bella was Bella Burge, the widow of Dick Burge, an English middleweight champion who went to prison for eight years in a massive bank fraud. From her husband’s death in 1918 until 1940, Bella ran “The Ring,” a boxing house in a circular building on Blackfriars Road in London that was originally an Anglican chapel. I would liken “The Ring” to the Olympic Auditorium in LA. It didn’t get the biggest fights but housed many important fights and attracted a loyal clientele that included some salty characters. I found the book a great window into the world of boxing in London. By the way, The Ring had fallen on hard times when it was reduced to rubble by the German Luftwaffe in 1940. I never tire of reading A.J. Liebling, whether he’s writing about boxing or Louisiana politics or whatever. I read Liebling for pleasure and also in hopes that some of his skill as a wordsmith will rub off on me but it never has.

RON LIPTON (world class referee): I enjoyed “Jersey Boy: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula” and “Dick Tiger: The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal,” both by Adeyinka Makinde, and the Rocky Graziano biography “Somebody Up There Likes Me.” Also, anything by Ted Sares, Springs Toledo, Mike Silver, and William Detloff.

GORDON MARINO (philosophy professor, Wall Street Journal boxing writer, trainer): I guess I would go with Carlo Rotella’s “Cut Time” and Roger Kahn’s “A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring 20’s.”

ROBERT MLADINICH (former NYPD police detective, author, boxing writer): “Writers, Fighters and Other Sweet Scientists” by John Schulian. It is a collection of his columns from the Chicago Sun-Times and there is not a weak story in the batch. He is a master storyteller and my favorite boxing writer. I also immensely enjoyed “Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and a World on the Brink” by David Margolick for its historical and social significance and the underrated but exceptional “Weigh-In: The Selling of a Middleweight” by title challenger Fraser Scott.

TED SARES (TSS writer) Ralph Wiley’s “Serenity: A Boxing Memoir.” I also enjoyed Mike Silver’s “The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science” for the primary reason that it stirred up a lot of much needed debate between Old School and New School.

JOHN SCULLY (elite trainer, former world title challenger): My favorite boxing book is one that I believe to be one of the greatest books ever written on the inside of boxing called “The Black Lights” by Thomas Hauser. It was actually sent to me by Mike Jones back in 1988 when he was trying to sign me to a professional contract. He sent me the book I assumed as a way to show me how he deals in the boxing game as it is centered around his fighter, Billy Costello. It is a truly great book.

MIKE SILVER (boxing historian; author): I could easily name at least a dozen truly outstanding boxing books that are my favorites, but if asked to name just one I would place David Margolick’s “Beyond Glory Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and a World on the Brink” in the top spot. Another all-time favorite is the great Nat Fleischer’s “50 Years at Ringside.”

CARYN A. TATE (boxing writer) While it encompasses more than boxing, Bruce Lee’s “Tao of Jeet Kune Do” is probably my favorite book on combat. The book is filled with priceless instruction that is relevant and insightful. Lee was a great admirer of many Western boxers and incorporated some of their techniques into the martial art he founded. More than just an instruction manual, the book fuses technique with philosophy and real world psychology. The book shows that Lee was on the same page with great minds in boxing like Emanuel Steward and Cus D’Amato.

BRUCE TRAMPLER (Top Rank matchmaker; a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame): Off the top of my head, “The Professional” by W.C. Heinz, “Fat City” by Leonard Gardner, “A Boxing Companion” by Richard O’Brien, “Only The Ring Was Square,” and “James Norris and the Decline of Boxing” by Barney Nagler.

GARY “DIGITAL” WILLIAMS: (boxing writer, blogger and “Master of the Beltway”): I have two. Jack Newfield’s “Only in America: The Life and Crimes of Don King” is one of the great investigative books of all time. It was riveting. Also, Brad Berkwitt’s “Boxing Interviews of a Lifetime.” I love the range of people — in and out of the sport — that he interviews in the book.

PETER WOOD: (former boxer, author): My favorite iconic boxing books are “The Sweet Science” by A.J. Liebling and “The Harder They Fall” by Budd Schulberg. My favorite non-fiction boxing books are “Weigh-In” by Fraser Scott; “In This Corner” by Peter Heller, “Atlas” by Teddy Atlas, and “The Raging Bull” by Joseph Carter and Peter Savage. My favorite fictional boxing books are “My Father’s Fighter” by Ronald K. Fried and “The Professional” by W.C. Heinz.

Special Mention goes to “Flash Gordon’s 1970 East Coast Boxing Yearbook” with Johnny Bos and Bruce Trampler. My all-time favorite boxing autobiography is “Confessions of a Fighter” by Peter W. Wood.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Several interesting books have been published since Ted Sares conducted this survey. A new publishing house in Boston, Hamilcar Publications, released several boxing books, both hardcover and paperback, with more on the way. One of Hamilcar’s initial offerings was a reprint of Donald McRae’s 1997 opus “Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing,” which many consider one of the best boxing books of all time. The Hamilcar edition, with a new chapter by the author, clocks in at 552 pages.

Each year during the holiday season, Hall of Fame boxing writer Thomas Hauser publishes a list of what he considers the best books on boxing. It’s a long list. Here’s a recent compilation.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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Yoka vs. Hammer Kicks Off the Thanksgiving Weekend Slate on ESPN+

Arne K. Lang

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PRESS RELEASE— Tony Yoka, the dynamic heavyweight punching Parisian, aims to impress in his ESPN platform debut. Yoka, who won a super heavyweight gold medal for France at the 2016 Rio Olympics, will fight veteran Christian Hammer in a 10-rounder Friday at H Arena in Nantes, France.

Yoka-Hammer will stream live and exclusively this Friday, Nov. 27 in the United States on ESPN+ beginning at 2:55 p.m. ET/11:55 a.m. PT.

The ESPN+ stream will also include the return of unbeaten 2016 French Olympic gold medalist Estelle Yoka-Mossely against Pasa Malagic in an eight-round lightweight bout. Yoka and Yoka-Mossely, who have been married since 2018, welcomed their second child in May.

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Earlier this year, Yoka inked a promotional agreement with Top Rank, which will co-promote him with Ringstar France.

“Tony Yoka’s potential is limitless, and he is a grounded young man who is motivated to be a great professional fighter,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “France has never had a world heavyweight champion, and I believe Tony is the one to bring the sport’s biggest honor home.”

The 28-year-old Yoka’s stellar amateur run included a berth at the 2012 London Olympics and gold medals at the 2015 World Championships and 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Before his triumph in Rio, he’d already defeated the likes of former heavyweight world champion Joseph Parker and current undefeated prospects Joe Joyce and Ivan Dychko. At the Rio Olympics, he defeated Croatian standout Filip Hrgović in the semifinals and edged Joyce in the gold medal match.

As a professional, Yoka (8-0, 7 KOs) made his debut in June 2017 with a second-round stoppage over the previously undefeated Travis Clark. Apart from a decision win over Jonathan Rice in his second outing, Yoka has stopped every foe, including durable Englishman David “White Rhino” Allen and former European champion Alexander Dimitrenko. He made his 2020 debut Sept. 25 and stopped former world title challenger Johann Duhaupas in one round.

Hammer (25-6, 15 KOs) has fought many of the leading heavyweight names during his 12-year career, falling short against Tyson Fury, Luis Ortiz and Alexander Povetkin. He’s notched myriad upset victories, including a highlight-reel knockout over David Price and a 2016 split decision over Erkan Teper for the WBO European belt. In March 2019, he went the 10-round distance against Ortiz and has not been stopped since Fury forced him to retire on his stool after eight rounds in their February 2015 clash.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 115: Macho, Freddie and More

David A. Avila

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Camacho me and Mia

“Macho.”

That single word is how Hector Camacho presented himself when introduced. It was the only word needed for the three-division world champion from Puerto Rico who was raised in Harlem, New York.

The first time I met Camacho was in a dark and packed Las Vegas nightclub in the MGM where he was a guest of Oscar De La Hoya back in March 2001. Though it was difficult to see, when Camacho was introduced, I could see the large gold medallion with the word “Macho” in letters six inches high.

Showtime network will be presenting a documentary called “Macho: The Hector Camacho Story” on Friday, December 4 at 9 p.m. on Showtime. It sparks memories of how a fighter in the lower weight classes grabbed the attention of the boxing world.

Camacho was more than flash or words, he was an electrifying boxer who stood out in the 1980s, an era dominated by the “Four Kings” Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard. Oh, and also a guy named Mike Tyson.

The fast-talking Camacho was a phenomenal fighter who swept aside opponents with his blinding speed and shocking power. It was against Los Angeles-based fighters like Refugio Rojas and Louie Loy that I first read about his exploits. Both were knocked out.

A third Southern California fighter John “Huero” Montes was thought to be the one to give Camacho a real challenge. The fight was televised to a national audience in February 1983. At the time I was watching it on a tiny black and white television and at 1:13 into the first round Camacho unleashed one of those lethal uppercuts and Montes was out-for-the-count.

Camacho arrived that day.

From that point on few could withstand the speedy southpaw’s blinding charges. Six months later he stopped Mexico’s “Bazooka” Limon to win the vacant super featherweight title.

One fighter who heard the final bell was Freddie Roach who could take a punch and knew a thing or two about fighting southpaws.

“I liked fighting southpaws,” said Roach via telephone. “My dad taught me early to keep my foot on the outside and lead with right hands.”

Roach had never lost to a southpaw. The winner that day between Camacho and Roach in Sacramento, on December 1985, was supposedly going to fight Puerto Rico’s heavy-handed Edwin Rosario.

Using his surefire method of fighting southpaws, Roach managed a knockdown of Camacho with the help of his foot. But it was not enough.

“He was very difficult. Lot of people raved about how fast his speed was. You didn’t really realize until you got into the ring with him,” said Roach. “I wasn’t the slowest, but wasn’t the fastest. I just couldn’t keep up.”

Despite using roughhouse tactics against the lefty speedster, Roach said that Camacho invited him to dinner after the fight.

That pretty much explains Camacho, a talented and big-hearted guy.

Last Stages

The last time I ran into Camacho was at the Pechanga Resort and Casino when he and Mia St. John were about to fight on the same boxing card in 2009. He was much heavier but still able to defeat middleweights.

How good was Camacho?

He defeated two of the Four Kings when he beat Roberto Duran twice and stopped Sugar Ray Leonard by knockout when they fought in 1997. Yes, Leonard was 41 and had not fought in six years, but this was Sugar Ray Leonard.

“I didn’t think he would ever beat Leonard,” said Roach.

Neither did Leonard.

“I just felt that I was a bigger man. I was smarter, stronger, all those things, but the first time he threw a punch, it was like, Pow! And I said, ‘Wow, that hurt,’” said Leonard about their encounter. “I tried the best I could to just go the distance. When he was at his best, he was a thing of beauty.”

What I remember after Camacho beat Leonard was how sincerely apologetic he was after the victory. He could talk the talk and walk the walk but inside he remained the kid from Harlem who was given extraordinary talent. And he was humbled by it.

Roach remembers their dinner together after their fight.

“That night he took me out to dinner with his friends and said you fought a good fight,” said Roach adding that Camacho was a very likeable guy. “I saw him along the way in his career.”

Roach, who would later train another astoundingly fast southpaw named Manny Pacquiao, said he never fought anyone again as talented as Camacho.

“You hear rumors of drug problems and training problems. But when he fought me, he was in for 10 and I tried every trick in the book but it didn’t work. He was in a higher class than I was,” Roach said. “He was one of the best fighters in the world.”

Don’t miss this Showtime documentary next week.

Jacobs and Rosado

Speaking of Roach, the famous trainer will be working the corner of Gabe Rosado (25-12-1, 14 KOs) when he meets Daniel Jacobs (36-3, 30 KOs) on Friday, Nov. 27, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Florida. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

It’s Philly versus Brooklyn.

Rosado has long proven to be a real professional who keeps adding elements to his fight game. Paired with Roach he has further developed under the guidance of the Southern California-based trainer. Plus, Rosado can plain fight.

Jacobs, a former world champion, has proven to be an elite middleweight and looks just as comfortable as a super middleweight.

Expect the kind of prize fight they used to show in the Golden Age of boxing in the 1950s when you had guys like Johnny Saxton fighting Denny Moyer. It should be that kind of battle of wits and skill. I’m looking forward to it.

Photo: Hector Camacho, David Avila, and Mia St. John. Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Muhammad Ali Biographer Jonathan Eig Talks About His Book and the Icon Who Inspired It

Rick Assad

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Given the breadth and depth of Muhammad Ali’s 74 years, it isn’t very easy to capture the complete essence of the man.

Dozens of books have been written about the three-time heavyweight champion including Jonathan Eig’s 2017 biography, “Ali: A Life.”

Born in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17, 1942 as Cassius Marcellus Clay, he would one day be known around the globe as a world-class boxer, civil rights advocate, philanthropist and cultural icon.

Like so many others, the Brooklyn, New York-born Eig became intrigued by Ali.

“I loved Ali as a child. He fascinated me. He was outspoken, radical, yet so very loveable,” he said. “And, of course, he could fight! I was astonished to realize, around 2012, that there was no complete biography of Ali, even though he was probably the most famous man of the 20th century.”

Eig, currently at work on a major offering about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., added: “I had read lots of Ali books, including [David] Remnick’s “King Of The World: Muhammad Ali And The Rise Of An American Hero,” and [Thomas] Hauser’s “Muhammad Ali: His Life And Times,” and [Norman] Mailer’s “The Fight” – but those were not complete biographies,” he pointed out. “By 2012, enough time had gone by to put Ali in historical perspective. Also, there were plenty of people still alive to tell the story. I did more than 500 interviews, including all three of Ali’s living wives. I wanted to write a book that would treat Ali as more than a boxer. I wanted to write a book that would show the good and the bad. I wanted to write a big book worthy of an epic life, a book that danced and jabbed half as beautifully as Ali.”

Given Eig’s exhaustive research, what previously unknown tidbits about Ali did he come across?

“I learned thousands of new things. I think even hardcore Ali fans will find new information on almost every page,” said the former Wall Street Journal reporter and 1986 Northwestern University graduate. “I discovered things Ali himself didn’t know. I discovered Ali’s grandfather was a convicted murderer, for example. Ali didn’t know that! I read Ali’s FBI files, as well as those of Herbert Muhammad, Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad. I interviewed Ali’s childhood friends. I found MRIs of Ali’s brain. I counted the punches from all of his fights. I measured how those punches affected his speaking rate. Ali’s wives also confided in me things I never knew. I spent four years working on this book, and every day delivered revelations.”

Over the years, Ali, who posted a 56-5 ring record with 37 knockouts, seemed to mellow with time which helped ingratiate him to an even wider audience. How was this possible?

“People change. They grow. It’s hard to stay radical as you get older and richer,” said Eig, who has written five books including three that deal with sports. “The late Stanley Crouch had a great line about Ali. He said young Ali was a grizzly bear. Ali in the ’70s was a circus bear. Ali in his later years was a teddy bear. We all loved the teddy bear. We wanted to hug him and love him. But it was the grizzly bear who we should remember first. It was the grizzly bear who shook up the world.”

Sports Illustrated writer Mark Kram covered nearly the entirety of Ali’s career which spanned 1960 through 1981 and included a three-year period, 1967 until 1970 when he wasn’t allowed to box after being convicted of draft evasion because he refused induction into the armed forces.

In Kram’s book, “Ghosts Of Manila,” the author asserts Ali was essentially a pawn of the Black Muslims.

What’s Eig’s take?

“I love Kram’s book, but I think it’s dangerous to question anyone’s religious faith,” he said. “Ali was a true believer. The Nation of Islam took advantage of him at times. But does that mean he was a pawn? I don’t think so. He knew what he was doing. He made his own choices. One might argue that the NOI did more for Ali than Ali did for them.”

Ali wasn’t perfect and that included his fondness for women. As a Muslim, how did he hurdle this?

“He didn’t reconcile it – except to acknowledge that humans are human, they are flawed,” Eig said. “The thing I love about Ali is that he said he was the greatest, but he never said he was perfect. He talked to his wives about his weakness. He even talked to reporters about his flaws – his weakness for women, his disdain for training, his poor handling of money. He knew who he was and he never tried to be anything else.”

Eig, who has also penned “Luckiest Man: The Life And Death Of Lou Gehrig,” and “Opening Day: The Story Of Jackie Robinson’s First Season,” went on: “We’re all complicated, right? Ali was no more complicated than you or me, but he let the whole world see his complications – his racial pride and his racist behavior toward [Joe] Frazier, his love of women and his cruelty to his wives, his generosity with his money and his stupidity with money,” he said. “I don’t think Ali was different, just more open, more willing to let us see everything.”

Ali’s battles with Frazier, George Foreman and Ken Norton are legendary, but his two fights against Sonny Liston are filled with question marks, such as were they fixed?

Ali claimed the title on February 25, 1964 in Miami Beach when Liston failed to answer the bell for the seventh round and then faced Liston 15 months later in Lewiston, Maine, where he knocked out the challenger in the opening frame.

In Eig’s mind, were these two bouts on the level? “My hunch is that the first fight was legit. Liston quit when he knew he couldn’t win,” Eig said. “The second fight is more suspicious. Liston’s flop was pathetic. Bad acting! But I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure. As an aside, Liston’s wife said Sonny had diarrhea before the fight, which might have given him one more reason to throw it.”

Still, Ali in his prime was a sight to behold. “Ali before the exile, in my opinion, was the most beautiful boxer of all time. His combination of speed and power and ferocity was thrilling, elegant, frightening and marvelous,” Eig said. “Was he the greatest heavyweight of all time? Maybe, maybe not. Was he the most breathtaking? To me, yes.”

Early in Ali’s career his braggadocio was off-putting to many. But much of it was showmanship.

“One of the Greatest” doesn’t sound as good, does it? If we’re only discussing his action in the ring, Ali was one of the greatest,” Eig said. “But that’s like saying Louis Armstrong was one of the greatest trumpet players without considering his voice, his charm, his improvisational skills, his smile. In and out of the ring, Ali was the greatest in my book.”

For so many, Ali was many things. What traits in the man does Eig admire? “I love his fearlessness, his honesty, his insatiable appetite for people,” he said. “He was so very loving. But he could also be narcissistic. He wanted everyone to love him, but he wasn’t always sensitive to the feelings of others – including his wives and children. He turned his back on friends like Malcolm X and Joe Frazier when it served his purposes.”

While Ali could be polarizing, he had his legion of supporters including Howard Cosell, Jerry Izenberg, Robert Lipsyte, Larry Merchant and Jack Newfield.

“You could add Mailer, [George] Plimpton, and so many others to that list,” Eig noted. “Those men were lucky enough to spend time with young Ali and to bask in the great warmth of his sun. He was great to reporters. He was the best story they ever covered. And unlike most celebrities, he really paid attention to them.”

Eig continued: “I only met him once, six months before he died, and I envy those reporters who got to know him and got to see him at his best. I think those who knew and loved Ali became his disciples,” he pointed out. “Ali’s friend Gene Kilroy told me over and over that he thought Ali was like Jesus, that people would be studying his words and drawing inspiration from his life for centuries to come. That’s the feeling he gave to those with whom he spent time.”

Ali was a boxer, but so much more. How does Eig see him? “I think Ali will be remembered as one of America’s great revolutionary heroes – one whose courage went far beyond sports. Like Jackie Robinson, like Martin Luther King, like the abolitionists and suffragettes, he loved America but refused to accept its shortfalls,” he said. “He fought to make his country live up to the promises contained in the Declaration of Independence. He will also be remembered as an important world figure, one who united Africans, Americans and Asians, one who helped Americans better understand Islam and helped people of Islamic faith around the world better understand America.”

In Ali’s last quarter century, he was almost universally loved. This is a far cry from being labeled a draft dodger.

“Ali was always a spiritual man, but in his later years I believe he clarified and deepened his spirituality,” Eig said. “He became more focused and more thoughtful.”

When Eig turned in his manuscript, what was his immediate thought? “I wanted to take it back. I didn’t want to be done,” he said. “I had so much fun writing this book I wanted to work on it for the rest of my life. I knew I would never find anything more fun to work on.”

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