Peek into the Soul of a Boxing Writer—Part One

By Peter Weston Wood on March 9, 2015
Peek into the Soul of a Boxing Writer—Part One
“I call Boxing.com the ‘New Yorker’ for boxing fans,” declares Mladinich, nailing it down.

I love to read and my interests are catholic to a fault. I prefer that which is literary, whether it qualifies as literature or not…

Boxing.com is the most sophisticated, intelligent and mature boxing website out there today. Its articles are not just about two men slugging it out. Intelligent insights abound. References to current events, politics, film, and the art world are interwoven throughout many articles. These enlightened connections make this site a treasure trove of sports writing—so states Mike Silver, one of the staff’s writers.

Robert Mladinich, another writer on the site, states that Boxing.com offers the most creative and unique slant of any other website. “It doesn’t simply reprint press releases or kowtow to a company line. Instead of churning out predictable stories, real journalism is offered here.”

As a writer and a reader of this site, I delight in reading articles that weave in unexpected literary allusions, hint at psychological ambiguities, and surprise me with unforeseen connections to film, literature, music, and the visual arts.

“I call Boxing.com the ‘New Yorker’ for boxing fans,” declares Mladinich, nailing it down.

In addition, the thoughtful art direction of Robert Ecksel, the editor-in-chief, provides the tasty icing on the cake. Each article is adorned with a supporting photo that adds intrigue, enhances dimension, or lends gravity—with whimsy, irony, or urgency.

Boxing.com is a boxing buffet offering readers an assortment of delectable dishes. Here are the secret ingredients: the historical tidbits of Norman Marcus, Brian D’Ambrosio and Mike Silver. These three writers breathe life into the shadows of the past; the amazing harvest of stories—the width, breadth and humor—of Clarence George; the British and European perspective of Mohummad Humza Elahi and young Ted Spoon; the feminine slant, and unique interviews spiced with unexpected questions, of Jill Diamond; the precision of thought and facility of words served up by Adam Berlin; the unique blend of fact and fiction, (“faction”), of George Thomas Clark; the stentorian voice of powerful Ted Sares; the youthful eyes and exuberant passion offered by Johnathan Iverson, Jarrett Zook, and Jose Corpas; the insightful book reviews of talented Gordon Marino; the flavorful focus-on-Philly fare by Dr. Richard Mendel; the absolutely delicious boxing lists of Matt McGrain; the captivating boxing vignettes, perfectly packaged time-capsules, by Jeffrey Sussman; the warmth and compassion of Big Bob Mladinich — “The John Steinbeck of Boxing” — who finds forgotten fighters, digs them out of obscurity, and shines the ring lights upon them once more.

My apologies to those I have not cited, because of limited space.

Finally, the articles and photographs assembled on this site will, at some point, be anthologized. Robert Ecksel has created a journalistic forum, liberated from tradition, which welcomes honesty and originality. Ecksel is our modern-day Nat Fleischer. And if not Fleischer, then certainly Malcolm “Flash” Gordon. I’m sure he would eschew both titles. Nevertheless, his quiet leadership and sound integrity continues to leave a footprint on the American landscape.

1. Adam Berlin

MFA in Fiction Writing from Brooklyn College

Author of four novels, including the award-winning boxing novel Both Members of the Club and the post-9/11 novel The Number of Missing

Favorite Book: The Sun Also Rises

There are a few books I re-read every few years because they stay surprising. I may know the plots, but the characters show me different angles with each new read. Ernest Hemingway’s first novel is the ultimate unrequited love story. While it may have been written ninety years ago, Jake and Brett’s complicated relationship in a damaged world could just as easily be set in post-9/11 New York City. Jake’s final line “Isn’t it pretty to think so” is perhaps the saddest, most honest line in literature. And the novel’s first line mentions boxing. This two-punch combination is one of many reasons I read The Sun Also Rises again and again. 

2. Cheekay Brandon

I’m an academic geneticist and mathematician in my day life. As a scientist, I’ve always appreciated the technical aspects to boxing—the match of wits, the clash of styles, the cognitive genius routinely on display. I’ve been writing for Boxing.com for over two years, and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I don’t yet have any books in print, but am working on a few book-related projects and have a data blog in the works.

My love of writing grew out of my love of reading. I’m more of a “depth over breadth” type of reader, and so I have sacrificed volume for in depth examination of topics of interest. For example, I’m really interested in World War 1 right now, and am reading several texts that offer different perspectives and angles. I’m also a very big fan of African American history and literature, science fiction and poetry.

In boxing, I’ve enjoyed reading about the characters, personalities and social histories that define the boxing world. I’ve read many boxing books, but a recent one that I truly enjoyed was Micky Ward’s recent autobiography (A Warrior’s Heart). How much I enjoyed it was a bit of a surprise, as we had all seen the film ‘The Fighter’, and knew the story of Micky Ward. The biography was, however, far more candid and insightful than I would have predicted. Ward has this wondrous perspective on the world, that’s almost Gump-like: profound in its simplicity, and yet not simple at all. His perspective on abuse, family, and race were particularly enlightening.

As far as fiction, I’d have to go with Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I like stories within stories, and Ellison’s novel is layered both within the text, and outside of it. Ellison wasn’t part of the literary elite at the time that he wrote the novel, and so its genius just kind of erupted from the middle of nowhere.

For non-fiction, I can cite several, but would say that I was recently intrigued by Steven Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature. The book examines the decline in violence in the human species through time. My interest in it is actually relevant to my boxing work, as my study of boxing has made me broadly interested in violence. It is beautifully written, and puts forward some very well-argued, provocative ideas. More than that, however, the book demonstrates an innovative data-driven approach to understanding historical trends, and serves as a jumping off point for further reading and examination.

3. Jay Bulger

I went to Fordham University in the Bronx, where I competed in several NYC Golden Gloves as a middleweight. I then worked for boxing promoter, Cedric Kushner.  Cedric was one of the greatest humans I have ever come across. RIP.

I’ve since written for magazines like Rolling Stone and GQ, and directed films such as BEWARE OF MR. BAKER about Ginger Baker—the greatest drummer, ever.

My favorite book is Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown.

The story follows Brown from his impoverished childhood in Harlem in the ‘40s through the ‘60s in Greenwich Village. Brown is the worst kid in town. He drifts in and out of reform schools, becomes a heroin kingpin, adapts to whatever life throws at him. As the city changes, so does he. He starts playing the piano, he embraces beat culture.

Nobody seems to make it out of Harlem alive; but Brown is cunning and indomitable. Resilient and brilliant. If Brown had boxed, he would have been champion of the world.  Browns story is that of survival, by all means necessary. I won’t blow the ending. All that I will say is that it lives up to its title: Manchild in the Promised Land.

4. George Thomas Clark

o Background/Education/Training

I was raised in a pleasant neighborhood near the American River in Sacramento and fortunate to have some memorable cultural opportunities early on, the two most exciting of which were attending the closed circuit telecast of the first Floyd Patterson-Sonny Liston fight in venerable Memorial Auditorium, which, I think, is still designated as an air raid shelter since the structure’s brick exterior and concrete interior shield a deep basement. The second highlight was attending a Louis Armstrong concert in the early 1960s. In the lobby before the show he walked right by our family. 

I was educated in public schools but after high school rarely attended college classes, for which I’d enrolled, because I was either losing battles to hangovers or studying books I deemed, and still deem, more important than those assigned by the teachers (I think most prefer to be called Professor). I do wish, however, that I could’ve finished at least one college class a semester and graduated a tad sooner than 21 years after receiving my high school diploma. 

o Accomplishments/Experiences

I have taught English as a Second Language for adults for 23 years, 1991 to the present, and always had large and enthusiastic classes who demonstrate learning on a variety of state- and district-mandated tests. The students want to be in class, are eager to learn, and every day show their appreciation for my efforts as well as those of the other teachers at the school.   

Though more money comes in from teaching than typing, I still consider myself primarily a writer. I was a correspondent for the Sacramento Bee 1977-81 and had 600 articles published, most about prep sports but I also had the opportunity to interview and write about Archie Moore and Emanuel Steward. Expanded and updated versions of those articles appeared on Boxing.com.

I’m also the author of several books, one of which — Death in the Ring — our moderator, Peter Wood, wrote about quite generously, and with considerable eloquence, on Amazon.com. 

I spent 20 years researching and writing a biographical novel, Hitler Here, ignored a number of nay-saying agents, and published the book myself in 2002 and have since revised it a four times. Reader reviews on Amazon have been excellent. At the 2004 Frankfurt Book Fair, booksellers representing me sold Hitler Here to a foreign publisher in India and another in the Czech Republic. The Czech version, Tady Hitler, a major translation effort of 200,000 words, is still in print, the Indian version is not. In 2012 a Polish publisher emailed to ask if the Polish rights were still available — I assured him they were — and he paid me half of the modest advance and assured me the balance would come in January 2014, when the translation would be complete. This gentleman subsequently left the firm and his successors, despite my claims of having a legal friend in Warsaw, have responded with neither check nor excuse.

I have also published a short story collection, The Bold Investor, that on Goodreads has received 37 reviews and ratings for an average of just under four stars of five. My other two published books are Obama on Edge and Echoes from Saddam Hussein, both quite political in nature and, as with all my books and most articles, written from the point of view of the people involved. About this fusion of history and fiction, Peter Wood writes on Amazon: “It’s a dangerous literary game of ‘faction’ that Clark plays, but he plays it well and we buy into his portrayals, speculations, and flights of fancy…”

o Proudest moments

I’m proud every time I finish an article or book, so good feelings are usually in the present. But I do still occasionally think about that wintry 1970 night I scored 41 points in a high school basketball game. There was no three-point line in those days or the total would’ve been about 50.

o Name your favorite book

1) Favorite Boxing Book — The Sweet Science by A.J. Liebling
2) Favorite Book of fiction — The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
3) Favorite Book of non-fiction — American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964 by William Manchester

5. Jose Corpas

My published works: New York City’s Greatest Boxers. And coming this year — Black Ink: The Tragic Life of Panama Al Brown

Favorite Book? —  It might be Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff. 

But I do have favorite writers: Boxing writer — Bert Randolph Sugar. (I grew up reading him.) 

Non-fiction writer — Pete Hamill

Fiction writers — I like Stephen King’s imagination and Garcia Marquez’s skill. And Junot Diaz is a vivid writer.

6. Brian D’Ambrosio

I grew up in Yonkers, New York, around the grit and mustiness of boxing gyms and I’ve always been intrigued by the psychology of it. I’ve maintained an affection and affinity for boxers and I find their tales to be uniquely compelling and disturbing. My first gigs in journalism were working the fight beat in upstate New York and I’ve flirted with boxing as a participant over the years. Boxing encompasses the very worst and the very best of human nature and its beautiful brutality is a marvelous contradiction for a writer. It conjures up so many sharply antagonistic feelings. Boxing begins in illusion and ends in real blood and tears. That’s what makes it so rich. My first boxing biography book just came out last month: Warrior in the Ring: The Life of Marvin Camel, Native American World Champion Boxer. When I moved to Montana in 2000, I wondered about the whereabouts of Marvin Camel. I carried the idea in my head for 12 years before calling and visiting with Marvin in person. Half of the book is based on firsthand interviews and the other half is based on archival material and interviews with friends and opponents. At 65, he’s robust. He’s vigorously healthy. He has all of his mental faculties in place. He’s jolly. He’s not embittered. He’s a kind, classy man, who fought in a new division with limited exposure. When you contrast that with some of the men that Marvin fought, most of them are dead or incarcerated or homeless. I just heard a story that young Joe Louis, who was Marvin’s last fight, is in bad shape. He’s kind of wandering the streets of Chicago penniless. Marvin fought Matthew Saad Muhammad twice and Matthew was one of the great fighters of all time. His decline is well-documented. He just died recently. To see Marvin again at the recent WBC Convention in Las Vegas, cheerful and proud, was a thrill. Anyhow, I’m hooked and I’m working on Boxing’s Last Villain, The Life of Livingstone Bramble, which should raise interest. Here’s the thing: Bramble mentioned the fact that he wasn’t too happy with the media for making him out to be some kind of quack. He registered this objection the day after he’d sparred two rounds with a pair of chickens, shadowboxed one round with a newly purchased Burmese python named Turtle and spent one round punching soap bubbles blown from a red pipe by his latest trainer. Bramble sold an image, and he’s lived with it ever since. A compelling storyline, for sure. Only in boxing, right?

As far as my favorites, I loved Nick Tosches’ book, The Devil and Sonny Liston — loved the incisive, caustic, no-holds-barred style. And, of course, Christian Giudice nailed it with Roberto Duran — The Life and Legend of the Hands of Stone.

7. Jill Diamond

I am a Reichean Therapist, Hypnotherapist and a college dropout. My background is primarily in Music and Entertainment. I studied with Sanford Gold, Elliot Lawrence and Mitch Miller, and with many other fine musicians I worked with on the road. As a music producer, my schooling was with Billy Davis, who also produced my material. My love of boxing was inherited from my late husband, Don, whose dad, Clyde ‘”the Texas Tornado” Chastain, was an accomplished boxer, whom, prior to the establishment of mandatories, never had a championship fight. I started boxing after my husband’s death, and it became my Prozac. I never enjoyed boxing prior to that, and learned to love it from the doing; from the inside out. As a woman, it bothered me that people cheered when a person hit the canvas. Years later, I learned, that they were cheering for the man standing, and the courage of the one falling. It will always be a spiritual conflict I enjoy exploring. I hope never to be completely comfortable with the joy I feel when I enter the arena as a spectator, or as a Fight Supervisor.

o Accomplishments/Experiences:

I am the Chair of WBC World Boxing Cares, a Fight Supervisor, and I have Chaired the NABF and WBC Woman’s Championship Committees. I have received various awards for my philanthropic work associated with sports. I have multiple Emmys for Music Production and Writing, and ran the P&G, and Cap City Music departments. I also headed the TV/Movie Department for Anatomical Travel, a company that worked with Discovery Networks producing books and shows on Lifescience, including, Conception to Birth, an Oprah book choice. After and during, I developed campaigns for hospitals and non profits relating to health awareness, including Katie Couric’s Colon Cancer DVD, worked with and preformed for Motown, worked as a side person and singer in various bands, and starred on Broadway. Right now, I am on the Mental Health Task Force in Washington with Rep. Grace Napolitano and Rep Ron Barber.

o Published works:

I have written for Television, Boxing.com, Sweet Science, Seconds Out, and I am currently the Gatekeeper for iChannel Media’s combat App, an APP that features sports and philanthropy. I had a play produced in NY, Snowballs in Hell, by ASPA and I run the webs for the NABF and other boxing organizations. I have also published one book, Leftovers and one novella, Stan.

o Proudest moments:

I have three: Loving the right man. Walking in and out of hospitals and youth centers feeling that I, my athletes and the WBC, have made a difference. Helping to remove the stigma associated with Mental Illness.

o Name your favorite book:

I am a junkie for anything that is nonfiction and has to do with neuroplasticity. Also, as a lifelong vegetarian, anything that relates to nutrition. As for fiction — give me a good story, any story, I don’t care if it’s true as long as it’s interesting!

8. Robert Ecksel

I love to read and my interests are catholic to a fault. I prefer that which is literary, whether it qualifies as literature or not. My favorite boxing books are On Boxing by Joyce Carol Oates, a slim but precious volume which is part autobiography, part history, and part Philosophy of Boxing; Norman Mailer’s The Fight, which reminds me of what’s possible within the confines of a singular, restrictive genre; and Budd Schulberg’s masterfully cinematic The Harder They Fall, which remains as fresh, and as true, as it was on the day it was first published.  Mike Silver’s The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science deserves a nod of recognition. While not as literary as the books preceding it, it’s hard to imagine a boxing book as polemical or as cogently argued.

When it comes to fiction, I like big books with big themes. The first is Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. Ostensibly about whaling, a compelling subject in and of itself, Melville also shines a light on hubris, frailty, obsession, delusion, vengeance, and the fine line that separates humanity from savagery. It’s also proto-modernism at its best. Don DeLillo’s Underworld is dazzling. At 800-plus pages, it concerns the second half of the 20th century in America and anticipates, by mixing high and low culture with personal, political, and historical inevitabilities, the collapse of civilization and the end of life as we knew it. The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil is a comic novel, a modern novel, a novel of ideas, and a satire. The author is erudite and philosophical and his protagonist, a prototypical man without qualities, straddles fin de siècle Europe as the rational gave way to the sentimental, which in turn gave way to the enduring horrors of the Second World War. Lastly, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s em>Crime and Punishment has lost none of its power. Masterful storytelling by a masterful stylist, it’s a probing examination of faith and nihilism, downfall and redemption. The last time I reread it, about five years ago, I was actually crying at the end. No more needs to be said.

9. Pete Ehrmann

I shrink from self-promotion, but never from promoting my favorite books. Years ago in The Ring magazine I listed my choices for the 10 best boxing novels ever written. At the top, in order, were The Professional, by W.C. Heinz; The Big Man, by William McIlvanney; and Budd Schulberg’s The Harder They Fall. Plenty of other good boxing fiction has come down the pike since then, but none good enough to unhorse the Big Three. I’ve read them each more than once, and always have them within easy reach. The same goes, non-fictionally, for Jack Doyle: Fighting for Love, the pluperfect biography of the 1930s Irish heavyweight raconteur by Michael Taub, and Heinz’s Once They Heard the Cheers. I like just about everything by Pete Dexter (especially Spooner) and Richard Russo, and the political/cultural commentaries of H.L. Mencken.

(This is the 1st of a 3-part series)

Peek Into the Soul of a Boxing Writer—Part One

(This is the 15th of a 15-part series)

Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part One
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Two
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Three
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Four
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Five
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Six
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Seven
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Eight
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Nine
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Ten
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Eleven
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Twelve
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Thirteen
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Fourteen
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Fifteen

Peter Wood is a 1971 NYC Golden Gloves Middleweight Finalist in Madison Square Garden;. A Middleweight Alternate for The Maccabean Games in Tel Aviv, Israel, and author of two books: Confessions of a Fighter, and A Clenched Fist—The Making of a Golden Gloves Champion, published by Ringside Books.

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  1. Eric 02:49pm, 03/14/2015

    The Pacific Northwest seems to spawn its share of serial killers as well. Must be the gloomy, rainy weather.

  2. Kid Blast 08:54am, 03/14/2015

    Hell, I grew up in Chicago where serial killers made their bones until LA took over in the 90’s for a short but intense period of mayhem.

  3. Clarence George 05:28pm, 03/13/2015

    Thank you, Peter, though I wasn’t even aware that I was using a neologism!  I haven’t read the Rawicz book, and will look into it.  I know that commercial.  It annoys everyone, and no one can figure out what the kids need the cars for.

    Living in a city where a serial killer is on the loose is something else, isn’t it, KB?  My girlfriend at the time was a brunette, and she was scared to death.  I remember when the Boston Strangler escaped, and how upset my mother was, but that’s not the same as knowing that a homicidal maniac is indeed living and killing in your hometown.

     

  4. Kid Blast 04:59pm, 03/13/2015

    For what its worth. my wife and I and friends went to a Jimmy Vaughn concert last night and it rocked.

    CG, I was 100 pounds lighter and had 70’s style sideburns with a mustache. I also wore bell bottoms. Even the Son of Sam took notice.

  5. peter 03:08pm, 03/13/2015

    @ Clarence, et. al—Congratulations, good man! I think you coined a new word in the English language—“Unputdownable”. That’s brilliant! I will be using it henceforth. ...“Endurance” is a book I still think about—especially when hungry, thirsty or cold. “Into Thin Air”  had me gasping for air—literally.  Two excellent reads. Another excellent book along those lines is “The Long Walk—The True Story of a Trek to Freedom” by Slavomir Rawicz….Regarding songs that make your teeth ache—When listening to radio, I need to turn the knob each time I hear that insufferable “Cars For Kids” ditty.

  6. Clarence George 01:10pm, 03/13/2015

    KB:  I don’t know when (or even if) I’ll be able to get the image out of my head of you in an ice-white disco suit shaking it to “Le Freak.”

    Ahem, but speaking of ice…I’ll take this opportunity to make another non-fiction recommendation, if I may:  Alfred Lansing’s “Endurance.”  Unputdownable.  Even better than Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air,” which is indeed damn good.

  7. Lindy Lindell 09:55am, 03/13/2015

    Never thought I’d see Robert Musil mentioned in a column ostensibly about boxing.  All to the good, though.  Hillary Clinton says she longs to read Marcel Proust.  This probably won’t happen until she steps down as President.  In the face of the net, TMZ and the transience of social media, Boxing.com notwithstanding, it’s nice to know that the editor and his literate staff are holding forth.

  8. Eric 09:07am, 03/13/2015

    Hall & Oates do a wonderful cover of “What’s Going On,” and the late Robert Palmer wasn’t too bad on, “Mercy Mercy Me.” Both might not be quite as good as Marvin’s version but pretty good covers nonetheless.

  9. Eric 08:05am, 03/13/2015

    Steely Dan taint too bad. Jeff Baxter was with both Steely Dan & The Doobie Brothers. That guy has played with just about everyone in the rock & roll bidness. The guy is some kind of military advisor nowadays. teehee.

  10. Kid Blast 07:28am, 03/13/2015

    Well hell then. Why don’t we all get a Steely Dan album cover and jump on it!!!!!!!!!!?? And to dislike Marvin Gaye is—well—I don’t have a word for it. Perhaps it’s an infamita

    Me, I am a modern jazz and blues aficionado, but I was a tad of a Disco Duck back in the 70;s when I worked in the City. Nothing like Studio 54 on a Friday night, Le Chic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And of course I lift to Heavy Metal.

  11. Eric 06:39am, 03/13/2015

    I used to love the Doobie Brothers back in the day. “It Keeps You Running,” “What A Fool Believes,” “Taking It To Streets,” etc., all good tunes. Never was big on Steely Dan, although I do like, “Do It Again.” Steely Dan’s, “Hey Nineteen” is one of those songs that I absolutely loathe.

  12. Clarence George 02:50am, 03/13/2015

    By the way, I’d like to add a few music-names that induce homicidal mania:  Delbert McClinton and Hayes Carll (despite, or because of, Imus rhapsodizing about both of them), and Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.”

    The Ink Spots’ “Whispering Grass”...now that’s a song.

  13. Clarence George 02:47am, 03/13/2015

    On another matter, I received a corrective (albeit not chastising) email from Lindy Lindell:

    “Actually, Louis hated Schmeling until at least 1948 when he said that he was the only one of his opponents he didn’t like in a big article in ‘Life’ pubbed that year.  Didn’t know about Galento, though.  Where did you find this?  Appears that Joe’s reaction was similar in both cases—which points to his egalitarianism, a kind of fairness doctrine that worked into his thinking.”

    The info on Galento comes from Joseph Monninger’s “Two Ton,” if memory serves.

  14. Clarence George 02:24am, 03/13/2015

    Bob:  Although in the minority, you’re not the only one who has that reaction to “Confederacy.”  Me, I’ve read it three times.  No book ever had me laughing harder, including “Vintage Stuff” and Thurber’s “My Life and Hard Times.”  They were going to make a movie of it (I think with Belushi), but it fell through.

    I hear what you’re saying about Doctorow, though I’ve always wanted to read “Welcome to Hard Times,” because I rather liked the movie, in which Aldo Ray was terrific.

    I agree with you about Steely Dan (sorry, KB), though I wouldn’t quite say that I loathe them.  I’d reserve that word for the Eagles, especially “Hotel California.”

    Do you remember how Curly would go berserk upon hearing “Pop Goes the Weasel,” until fed some cheese?  I have a similar reaction to certain songs, including “Afternoon Delight,” “Muskrat Love,” “Disco Duck,” and “Convoy.”  Oh my God, just thinking about them…

  15. Kid Blast 07:40pm, 03/12/2015

    Loathing Steely Dan is not a good thing Bob.

  16. Bob 07:28pm, 03/12/2015

    Clarence: Confederacy of Dunces was recommended to me 30 years ago by a former college classmate who I really respected. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to read it without success.  I wanted to like it, but it just couldn’t happen. Same with E.L. Doctorow. I love his genres, subjects, time periods, everything about his work, except the work itself. Just can’t will myself to enjoy the writing. In music I can compare to Steely Dan or the Doobie Brothers. Great musicians, unique and creative music, but I loathe the sound. Just one of those things.

  17. Lindy Lindell 01:33pm, 03/12/2015

    A great idea to have writers fill us in on their backgrounds, writing histories, jobs.  Look forward to parts II and III.

  18. Kid Blast 07:58am, 03/12/2015

    I don’t know what “stentorian ” means but if its good, that’s me.

  19. Eric 07:44am, 03/11/2015

    Speaking of movies, books, and beatniks. Ken Kesey’s, “One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest,” was a pretty good book and movie. “Deliverance,” one of Reynold’s better movies, along with, “The Longest Yard.” Long before plastic surgery turned Burt into an old Asian lady.

  20. Clarence George 07:13am, 03/11/2015

    I agree.  Great movie, too, in which Dickey played the sheriff.

  21. peter 07:10am, 03/11/2015

    Dickey’s “Deliverance”  is top-notch. In college, it was my suite-mate’s favorite book.

  22. Clarence George 07:03am, 03/11/2015

    By the way, James Dickey (not a great poet, admittedly) detested Ginsberg and Bly, and successfully satirized and ridiculed them with a poem he wrote on the spur of the moment:  “It is the hour when the Americans in Vietnam are/examining their hands/The dead are lying below the tangles of jungle brush/All over Minnesota snow is beginning to fall over the/missile silos.”

  23. Clarence George 06:38am, 03/11/2015

    Except for “Snow mountain fields/seen thru transparent wings/of a fly on the windowpane,” I never read anything of Ginsberg that I didn’t consider trash.  My brother, a fan, knew him slightly.

    Let me know what you think of “Vintage Stuff,” Peter, should you decide to read it.

  24. peter 06:14am, 03/11/2015

    I totally agree with you on Maya Angelou. I’ve read her stuff and heard her speak at the 92nd Street Y, and I’m left cold. Ginsberg, too. Tom Sharpe? I need to look up “Vintage Stuff”. Thanks.

  25. Clarence George 06:02am, 03/11/2015

    High school kids don’t read today, Peter, which doesn’t stop them from fawning over the execrable Maya Angelou, the worst poet this country’s ever produced, and I’m not excluding Allen Ginsberg and Robert Bly.

    I also like, by the way, Tom Sharpe.  Terribly funny, especially “Vintage Stuff” and “The Throwback,” though I couldn’t finish “The Great Pursuit.”

  26. peter 04:51am, 03/11/2015

    @ Clarence—Jack Finney’s “Time and Again”  I haven’t heard that title in years! I read it on a friend’s heartfelt recommondation and found it uneven, but parts of it outstanding.  Stacks of “Time and Again” sit down in the high school book room, unread—along with stacks of “Huck Finn”, “Old Man and the Sea”, “For Whom the Bells Tolls”, “The Sun Also Rises” and “A Farewell to Arms.” and many other classics—but that’s a whole different discussion.

  27. Clarence George 02:29am, 03/11/2015

    If I may disagree with you, Nicolas, albeit with affection and esteem:  “Across the River and Into the Trees” is among the worst novels ever published by a major writer, though the winner in that category is almost certainly “The Merry Month of May,” by James Jones.  “For Whom the Bell Tolls” has great moments, but I think is very overrated, and I don’t at all understand why “The Old Man and the Sea” is held in high regard.  Hemingway’s two best novels (and two of the best novels ever written by anyone) are “The Sun Also Rises” and “A Farewell to Arms.”

    I’m going to take this opportunity to sneak in a couple of reading recommendations:  In non-fiction, James L. Swanson’s “Manhunt” and, to a lesser extent, James Fox’s “White Mischief.”  In fiction, John Kennedy Toole’s “A Confederacy of Dunces,” as well as Jack Finney’s “Time and Again.”  And if anyone shares my weakness for oral biographies:  “Savage Grace,” by Natalie Robins and Steven M.L. Aronson, “The True Gen,” by Denis Brian, and “Edie,” by Jean Stein.

  28. nicolas 08:02pm, 03/10/2015

    I could never get into the novel THE SUN ALSO RISES. Read it some 33 years ago. Did like FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS though, beautifully written. OLD MAN AND THE SEA, and even ACROSS THE RIVER INTO THE TREES was good.

  29. Bob 07:10pm, 03/10/2015

    And Peter sure can punch. Might be the toughest former high school English teacher in the country.

  30. Kid Blast 10:22am, 03/10/2015

    Yes Bill can sure paint

  31. peter 06:44am, 03/10/2015

    If our late-night, post-fight, street debate had half as much “immense passion” as one of your delicious oil paintings that you now are painting, (after your pretty impressive ring career), I’d remember it, too.  Flash Gordon was a mensch. As are you. Thank you for the memory, Bill..

  32. Bill Angresano 06:17am, 03/10/2015

    To this day I can still vividly see the scene, 1AM outside Madison Square Garden after a major fight card, FLASH and Peter Wood hotly and with immense passion discussing and debating the evenings combat!

  33. Mohummad Humza Elahi 04:05am, 03/10/2015

    Not going to lie, to be amongst the crew of writers here is very intimidating but incredibly insightful and as a writer still learning both about boxing and boxing writing, it’s invaluable.  #1 P4P boxing site on the web? Don’t bet against it.

  34. Kid Blast 04:23pm, 03/09/2015

    Jill Diamond, those are very impressive facts, Very. Why am I not surprised?

  35. Eric 12:29pm, 03/09/2015

    Irish…I get the impression that Louis was a pretty genuine character. It was pretty routine back in the day for fighters to portray a bit of humility whether it was real or contrived. I think with certain fighters like Louis, Marciano, Patterson, and Frazier, a good deal of it was genuine. Of course, I doubt even these four fighters were boy scouts, but all four were class human beings from what I’ve read about them. Patterson, might have been a tad eccentric, but the guy seemed really down to earth. When Tyson first came on the scene, he adopted the same “humble” act, but with Mike even back then, you could tell it was a rehearsed act.

  36. Clarence George 12:28pm, 03/09/2015

    Irish:  I think that Louis always brought it, but he never rubbed his opponents’ noses in their defeat, especially if they were white, partly because it would have been impolitic, but also because it’s just not who he was.

    The only one he really disliked was Galento, mainly because of the fat man’s late-night calls to the champ, replete with distasteful sexual references to Mrs. Louis.  Galento later apologized, both publicly and privately.  Always gracious, Louis forgave him, and they became good friends.

  37. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:11am, 03/09/2015

    Clarence George and Eric-There is a video that shows on Boxing.com of Joe Louis in training camp where he literally “floats like a butterfly” around the ring during a warm up. I have often suspected that in the aftermath of Jack Johnson and considering the race relations in the country at the time, that Joe purposely fought down to the level of his competition…..which when added to his mild, humble public persona and light complexion all worked toward making him America’s hero.

  38. Kid Blast 07:50am, 03/09/2015

    “...catholic to a fault…? But you are not Catholic. That is amazing.

  39. Clarence George 07:47am, 03/09/2015

    Eric:  Frazier was tank enough to lead with his head against just about anyone, but he couldn’t do it against Foreman, and the same would be true of Louis, whom I’d rank an even harder hitter than Big George, as well as an incomparably better boxer.

  40. Eric 07:14am, 03/09/2015

    Clarence… No doubt that Louis would be capable of pulling off an early knockout, can’t completely rule that out. Frazier was noted to be a slow starter and the second round seemed to be an unlucky round for Smokin’ Joe. Bonavena decked Frazier twice in the second round, and Foreman nearly killed Joe in the second round during their initial bouts with Frazier. And Ali shook Joe up in the second round of their rematch in ‘74.

  41. Clarence George 06:55am, 03/09/2015

    Thanks, Eric!

    As for Louis vs. Frazier…I don’t see Smokin’ Joe, whom I admire greatly, making it past the second.

  42. Clarence George 06:49am, 03/09/2015

    Anita Smythe (Dorothy Christy):  Now, darling, remember what the psychoanalyst said.  The child mind must never be coerced.  One must use reason and persuasion.  Now, dear, practice your piano and Mama will buy you something nice.
    Joy Smythe:  What?
    Anita Smythe:  Anything you like.  What do you especially want?
    Joy Smythe:  A machine gun!

  43. Eric 06:49am, 03/09/2015

    Clarence…No book on the Joe vs Joe matchup, but just Louis vs. Farr, Louis vs. Godoy, and even Louis vs. Galento, leads me to believe that Smokin’ Joe would have a chance against the Brown Bomber. The Fight Of The Century celebrated birthday number 44 just yesterday. Damn. Pretty eclectic taste when it comes to fiction for me. Non-fiction, I prefer history and true crime. Right now I’m reading, “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon And The Rise Of Reagan.”

  44. peter 06:26am, 03/09/2015

    @ Clarence—Thanks for The Joy Smythe/Jane Withers reference. I located a few clips—hilarious! ... You just proved, once more, the introductory paragraph of this article to be correct!

  45. Clarence George 06:08am, 03/09/2015

    Don’t forget to mention, Peter, how “Glamour” wanted me to pose with a bunch of bikinied beauties.  Turned them down.  That was some 35 years ago, and I’m still kicking myself.  And there was the time I helped a Venetian contessa out of a gondola, for which I received a demure “Grazie.”  Fascinating stuff.

  46. peter 05:47am, 03/09/2015

    @ Clarence—error corrected, and your bio is forthcoming—a tasty morsel worth waiting for. (Now I need to research Joy Smythe/Jane Withers.)

  47. Clarence George 05:46am, 03/09/2015

    Kinda strange that he never wrote another novel.  I’d love to see the movie, but it’s almost never shown, and Netflix doesn’t carry it.  Doesn’t Gardner own a boxing gym these days?  Not sure, but I seem to remember reading that somewhere.

  48. NYIrish 05:16am, 03/09/2015

    Fat City by Leonard Gardner is a great read for fighters and writers.
    Gardner also worked on scripts at NYPD Blue, another classic.

  49. Clarence George 04:46am, 03/09/2015

    I only get one mention?  That calls for a tantrum worthy of Joy Smythe (Jane Withers) in the Shirley Temple classic, “Bright Eyes.”  And another thing…it’s “breadth,” not “breath,” unless that was meant as an oblique and impertinent reference to my very occasional sip of Talisker.

    I understand the limitations of space, so permit me the honor of giving a shout-out (I believe that’s the correct vernacular) to Chuck Hasson.  The man’s a boxing encyclopedia!  Why, he’s even corrected me once or twice.  Grossly impudent, to be sure, but I nevertheless hold him in high esteem and affection.

    And let’s not forget our readers and commenters, guys like Eric, Irish, and NYIrish.  Always incisive and entertaining, I’d love to know what they read.  For example, what book could possibly lead Eric to think that Joe Frazier would have the slightest chance against Joe Louis?  Well, we all have our quirks.

    Excellent work, Peter, that provides fascinating insight into a motley crew of which I’m proud and delighted to be a member.  The best group of boxing writers there is.

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