Peek Into the Soul of a Boxing Writer—Part Three

By Peter Weston Wood on March 24, 2015
Peek Into the Soul of a Boxing Writer—Part Three
“To write about boxing is to write about oneself—however elliptically and unintentionally.”

The following recognizes the writers who have lifted their pens to access that “damaged part, or the funny parts which they couldn’t deal with…”

“If you opened up my head,” said “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, “you’d find a boxing glove inside of it.”

Okay, fine. But I’ve always wondered…If I opened up that glove inside “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler’s head, what would be inside?

I think I know — it’s the same thing I’d find inside the soul of any boxer, which is the same thing I would find inside the soul of any writer — a deep yearning to communicate.

Edward Hoagland, author of the boxing novel, The Circle Home, said “the painful fact was that I stuttered so badly that writing was my best chance to talk.”

Kate Sekules, ex-professional boxer and author of The Boxer’s Heart, contends “Boxing has the knack of getting at something deep down inside you; maybe it’s a damaged part, or the funny parts which you can’t deal with.” She also contends boxing “is a natural, exuberant, physical expression.”

Fighting and writing are not only forms of communication; they are art forms.

“To write about boxing is to write about oneself — however elliptically and unintentionally,” states Joyce Carol Oates.

The following list recognizes the writers who have lifted their pens in order to access that “damaged part, or the funny parts which they couldn’t deal with.”

Hats off to these intrepid writer-fighters:

20. Ezra Salkin

Whenever I’m asked to name my favorite book, for some reason I always come back to Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian or the evening Redness in the West. The story follows a gang of Indian scalp hunters, most notably a lost soul known only as “the kid” during the pioneering of Mexico Texas Borderlands, circa 1850. The kid probably could’ve used a Cus D’Amato in his life, instead of the insidious Judge Holden he gets instead. Blood Meridian is a brutal bitch of a read. I can’t say why it’s my favorite exactly, as I wouldn’t even say it’s the most “enjoyable” book in McCarthy’s oeuvre. Yet, bits of it come to mind almost every day. Just like my favorite sport, it affects you.

When it comes to boxing books. I have many favorites. In non-fiction, I like Joyce Carol Oates’ On Boxing, A.J. Liebling’s The Sweet Science, and the Gay Talese essay, The Loser. In fiction, I like Leonard Gardner’s Fat City.

I’m a freelance journalist and artist living and working out of northeastern Florida. I received my B.F.A in illustration from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2010. The piece of published writing I’m most proud of appeared on in March 2013—a long-form essay on former Georgia boxer Al Seeger. Seeger’s career derailed because of a brutal head injury, the result of excessive head butting.

21. Ted Sares

Favorite Books:

The Ploughman by Kim Zupan — My favorite
Clockers by David Price
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins
Cogan’s Trade by George V. Higgins
The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston
Black Sunday by Thomas Harris
Any good Noir Crime Fiction — like Dennis Lehane
Brown’s Requiem by James Ellroy
Blood on the Moon by James Ellroy
Clandestine by James Ellroy
The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy
Anything by Daniel Woodrell
Anything by the dark Scandinavian writers

I read at least one book per week. I love to read. I love to read almost more than anything.


Grew up in Chicago. Left in 1964 and never looked back. I have lived and worked throughout the world, including Geneva, Glasgow, South Korea and Singapore. Specialized in International Labor Relations. BA, MS, and PhD. Economics and Business Administration.

Have had several articles on socio-economic topics published as well as three boxing books and one true crime book.

I am a member of Ring 4 Boxing Hall of Fame (New England) and a member of Ring 10 (New York). I have followed boxing for over 60 years.

At 77+, I am one of the oldest active powerlifters in the world and compete (full power) throughout North America under the auspices of the RAW, USPA, and the Elite Powerlifting Federations. I am the 2014 EPF Nationals Champion in the Grand Masters Class, and the winner of the Northeast Championships for 2015. Next competition will be in Canada. Most of my competitors are dead.

Proud Moments:

Finishing first in my college graduating class was a very proud thing for me mainly because it was a proud thing for my parents neither of whom finished High School.

Another proud moment was coming back from a life-threatening subdural hematoma a few years back to once again become a successful power lifter after a 35-year layoff.

Plenty of non-proud moments but we will leave them for another day.

22. Mike Silver

o Former sales executive with a Fortune 500 company

o Author of the highly acclaimed book The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science (McFarland & Co. 2008), and many articles published in various newspapers, magazines and boxing web sites.

o First live boxing match: Madison Square Garden, May 22, 1959. Alex Miteff vs. Wayne Bethea.

I can’t fully articulate why I have been passionate about this sport and its history since the age of 14. Perhaps some of the answer lies in my choice of favorite boxing books. I like nothing better than to read a great boxing book. And by great I mean not just well written and informative but one that gave me the most enjoyable reading experience. There are many to choose from and I feel bad about leaving out some of my favorites. But if you ask me for a “pound for pound” all-time top ten list, the following books, in my opinion, take top honors. Together they cover every aspect of the sport.

1. Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and a World on the Brink by David Margolick. This is the best boxing book I have ever read. The writing is superb and the detail unmatched.
2.  Corner Men: Great Boxing Trainers by Ronald K. Fried. I can read this wonderful book over and over and never tire of it.
3.  On Boxing by Joyce Carol Oates. Every single page is an individual masterpiece. Brilliant and insightful analyses by a prodigiously talented writer.
4.  Boxing Confidential: Power, Corruption and the Richest Prize in Sport by Jim Brady. Hands down the best book ever written about the corruption that has plagued the sport since its beginnings.
5.  Beyond the Ring: The Role of Boxing in American Society by Jeffrey T. Sammons. Excellent detailed overview of American boxing history.
6.  Shadow Box by George Plimpton. The funniest laugh out loud boxing book I have ever read. Plimpton is a master storyteller.
7.  Dempsey by the Man Himself as told to Bob Considine and Bill Slocum. Very entertaining.
8.  Barney Ross by Douglas Century. An in-depth look at the great champion and war hero that includes interviews with relatives and friends who knew him.
9.  Fifty Years at Ringside by Nat Fleischer. The first boxing book I ever read and still an all time favorite.
10. A tie between two books about the same subject: Rocky Marciano: Biography of a First Son by Everett M. Skeehan and Rocky Marciano: The Rock of His Times by Russell Sullivan. Marciano is a fascinating subject and both the Skeehan and Sullivan books are superb and well worth reading for different reasons.

In addition to the above, honorable mention goes to The Gods of War by Springs Toledo and any of the scholarly biographies (Dempsey, Johnson, Louis) written by Randy Roberts.

23. Ted Spoon

As I’m sure it is with most, asking me to choose a favorite book is like asking me to chop myself up. However, the following would not make a bad list in a gun-to-my-head type scenario.

Favorite boxing book: The Fireside Book of Boxing, W.C. Heinz (Fire-Side revised) - Lots of goodies in here, though they missed William Hazlitt’s The Fight — tsk, tsk!

Favorite fiction: A Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde — Stylish, clever and with a great finale.

Favorite non-fiction: William Hazlitt Essays — a brilliantly fluid yet meditative writer who deals with subjects as far-reaching as ‘On the pleasure of hating’ to ‘The Indian Jugglers.’

Myself: Author, writer, sometimes trainer. Tried many years to secure an official boxing club at my university. Sadly, the unrelenting, worldwide craze that is handball took precedence.

24. Jeffrey Sussman

Jeffrey Sussman was brought up on boxing by his father, a friend of heavy weight boxer, Abe Simon. As a young teen, Jeff’s father arranged for him to get 10 boxing lessons at Stillman’s Gym on 8th Avenue in NYC. As a professional PR man, Jeff promoted the fighter Howard Davis. All of his favorite boxers were stars in the 1950s: Sugar Ray Robinson, Rocky Graziano, and Rocky Marciano.

Favorite Books: A Neutral Corner by A. J. Liebling; his favorite novel is Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow, and his two favorite boxing movies are The Harder They Fall and Requiem for a Heavyweight. Jeff has written 10 books and is president of Jeffrey Sussman Inc (, a marketing & PR company in NYC.

25. Caryn A. Tate

I grew up a cowgirl in the western United States on working cattle ranches. My dad was a cowboy, and his father before him, and on and on — I come from a long line of cowboys. I grew up with the authentic and traditional lifestyle all around me, so it became a big part of who I am. Living that life is nothing like Hollywood portrays it to be — it’s rough and a pretty poor life for most, not at all glamorous. You have to really love it to do it. A lot like boxing!

I was always an avid reader and started writing seriously when I was around 10 or 11 years old. My first published book was a children’s picture book, Sunny Bear’s Rainy Day, and then came my comic book series, Red Plains, which is still going. I’m really proud of Red Plains in particular — it’s a labor of love. I’m also now working on a Red Plains novel.

Over the past couple of years I started writing about boxing, and that’s been a great source of joy for me. I’ve also learned to box a bit myself, recreationally, and I love attending fights in person. It’s been fantastic to be able to talk to the fighters — I love discovering how they think about preparation, training, motivation, their stylistic approach, the media, the fans, the unique difficulties of the sport…hopefully helping to elevate peoples’ awareness of the boxers as people, and all that they go through to get where they are. They’re really inspirational and moving to me and I think to all fight fans, so I enjoy trying to get down to the heart of it all with these athletes.

Name Your Favorite Book:

It’s really hard to name one book! This is something I could talk about for hours on end, but if I had to narrow it down, I’d probably go with either Cities of the Plain or No Country for Old Men, both by Cormac McCarthy. Phenomenal books that are about so much more than they appear and they really give you everything you want as a reader.

26. Peter Wood

o Background/Education/Training — Born in NYC, graduated from Fordham University, BA Communications; Ohio State University, BS Education; The College of New Rochelle, MA School Administration

o Accomplishments/Experiences — 1971 Middleweight Finalist in NYC Golden Gloves held in Madison Square Garden; Selected to represent America in 1976 Maccabean Tournament in Tel Aviv (first alternate). Selected to represent NYC against Montreal, Canada

o Published works — Author of To Swallow a Toad, published by Donald I. Fine, re-released as Confessions of a Fighter, Ringside Books; A Clenched Fist, Ringside Books

Articles published in New York Times; Ring; Sporting Classics; America; Chicken Soup for the Soul; contributor to The Ultimate Book of Boxing Lists by Bert Sugar and Teddy Atlas

Favorite Boxing Books: (of course The Sweet Science, The Harder They Fall, and The Professional)

1. Weigh-In by Fraser Scott
2. In This Corner by Peter Heller
3. Atlas by Teddy Atlas
4. The Sixteenth Round by Rubin “Hurricane” Carter
5. A Flame of Pure Fire by Roger Kahn
** (Special Mention goes to Flash Gordon’s 1970 East Coast Boxing Yearbook, with Johnny Bos & Bruce Trampler, for $3.00)

Favorite Fiction:

1. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
3. Studs Lonigan by James T. Farrell
4. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
5. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
** (anything by Robert B. Parker)

Favorite Non-Fiction:

1. Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown
2. Night by Elie Wiesel
3. The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer
4. The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker
5. Agassi by Andre Agassi

(This is the 3rd of a 3-part series)

Peek Into the Soul of a Boxing Writer—Part One
Peek Into the Soul of a Boxing Writer—Part Two
Peek Into the Soul of a Boxing Writer—Part Three

(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. Tex Hassler 06:11pm, 03/26/2015

    THANKS for putting this information on the web site. It has answered a number of my questions about the writers. AGAIN THANKS!!!

  2. Kid Blast 04:47am, 03/26/2015

    Yes, me too.

  3. Ezra 04:32am, 03/26/2015

    Glad to see McCarthy do well here.

  4. Kid Blast 06:10pm, 03/25/2015

    George Clooney has signed on to play the author and crime-hunting hero of The Monster of Florence in a film adaptation. Written by Italian reporter Mario Spezi and thriller author Douglas Preston, the nonfiction bestseller is an account of their investigation into the unsolved murders of 16 young couples between 1968 and 1985

    Keep the doors locked while you read this one.

  5. Clarence George 05:56pm, 03/25/2015

    Delighted.  Yeah, the Burton Abbott case is very interesting, and Farrell gives it good treatment.

  6. Eric 02:14pm, 03/25/2015

    Clarence….Think I’ll give, “Shallow Grave in Trinity County” a look. Had a lot of good reviews on Amazon. Never heard of this case. Of course it was before my time, but I’m sure it was big news in the Bay Area when it happened. Tanks for the recommendation.

  7. Clarence George 12:41pm, 03/25/2015

    I don’t know who first came up with that connection, Eric, though I remember Dennis Miller compared him to one of Dali’s melting watches.

    If you’ll permit me to recommend some true-crime books…Andrew J. Field’s “Mainliner Denver,” Harry Farrell’s “Shallow Grave in Trinity County,” and Landis MacKellar’s “The ‘Double Indemnity’ Murder.”

  8. Eric 12:24pm, 03/25/2015

    Clarence… teehee. Damn if Kerry doesn’t it. haha. Never heard that before.

  9. John aka L.L. Cool John 12:03pm, 03/25/2015

    I agree with Nonymous. That was a cheap shot on Krauthammer. FYI: Krauthammer dove into the shallow end of a pool back in his college days and has been confined to a wheelchair ever since. His lower body is gone; however, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with his brain as evident by his articulate speech and reasoning ability. One might not agree with his point of view, but he is one intelligent guy.If I got a debate team up, Krauthammer would be one of my first choices.
    As far as boxing books go, my library is full of all of Ted Sares’ books, the late George Kimball’s “Four Kings,” and the late Jack Newfield’s “Only In America: The Life And Crimes Of Don King.”

  10. Clarence George 12:00pm, 03/25/2015

    I agree with whoever said that Kerry looks like the ill-tempered apple tree in “The Wizard of Oz.”

    Third-favorite ghost movie:  “The Legend of Hell House,” with the great Clive Revill, based on Richard Matheson’s “Hell House.”

  11. Eric 11:42am, 03/25/2015

    @nonymous…Point taken. Was in no way making fun of Mr. Krauthammer’s condition. Just that I can’t help but think of these characters when I see these men. Some of it has to do with their mannerisms, Kerry/Lurch for example. I left off James Carville, who reminds me of the Crypt Keeper. I can’t think of a good Dracula or Creature From The Black Lagoon. Sharpton looks like a largemouth bass, but would he make a good “Creature?”

  12. Nonymous 11:33am, 03/25/2015

    I’d kind of go easy on Krauthammer, Guy is badly disabled.

  13. Eric 09:40am, 03/25/2015

    Speaking of ghouls, ghosts, and monsters, heres a list of polticians, news reporters, and their monster doppelgangers.

    Charles Krauthammer-The Frankenstein Monster
    Henry Waxman-The Phantom of the Opera
    Ted Cruz-Freddy Krueger
    John Kerry-Lurch of the Adams Family

  14. Clarence George 09:14am, 03/25/2015

    By the way, greatest ghost movie of all time…“The Haunting,” with “The Uninvited” in second place.

  15. Clarence George 09:00am, 03/25/2015

    That’s great, Ted.  Let me know what you think.  My favorite James story is “The Treasure of Abbott Thomas.”  His “Casting the Runes” was made into a very entertaining film, directed by Jacques Tourneur (remember “Cat People”?) and starring Dana Andrews:  “Night of the Demon,” aka “Curse of the Demon.”

    The two McCarthy books I read are “All the Pretty Horses” and “No Country for Old Men.”  Everyone else notice the mistake in the very first sentence of “No Country”?

    I don’t read too many Westerns, but Charles Portis’ “True Grit” is outstanding.

  16. Ted Spoon 08:38am, 03/25/2015

    Clarence - I haven’t read the titles you mentioned but have taken you up on one of your recommendations and ordered some M.R. James. Also gone for The Road by McCarthy.

  17. Eric 08:30am, 03/25/2015

    @peter…Read both the LaMotta & Carter book. I was amazed at Carter’s prison training regimen, but then again, like James Scott, Carter had nothing to do but train. Carter said his “typical” day would start at 4AM when the church bells across the street would chime. He would then hit the floor and knock out pushups in multiple sets of 100-reps each. That only started his day.

  18. Clarence George 08:22am, 03/25/2015

    If I may, the classic writer of true crime is William Roughead.  I also recommend both the “Famous Trials Series” and “Notable British Trials.”  I only have a few of them, unfortunately:  On Patrick Mahon, Mrs. Maybrick, Neville Heath, and John George Haigh.  I also have Edmund Pearson’s “Trial of Lizzie Borden.”  Patterson Smith is the man to go to for hard-to-find true-crime books.

  19. peter 07:57am, 03/25/2015

    @ Eric—Well said about Abbott being a consummate “con”.  I, too, found Abbott’s book riveting. I had the same queasy feeling while reading “The Sixteenth Round” by Rubin “Hurricane” Carter…Also, Jake LaMotta’s recounting of his time in “the hole”  in “Raging Bull” is gut-wrenching stuff.

  20. Eric 07:30am, 03/25/2015

    @peter… Abbott was no doubt the consummate “con” and probably had the pompous, “square” Mailer hoodwinked from the get go. But the book really gives a good visual of life behind bars in a state maximum security prison. Prison isn’t a pretty place at all. The half Chinese/half Irish, Abbott, like Charles Manson, had basically spent nearly his whole life in reform schools or behind bars. Abbott was a monster and a straight up commie bastitch, but that was one of those books that I couldn’t put down.

  21. peter 07:12am, 03/25/2015

    @Eric—“In the Belly of the Beast”  was a good read. Unfortunately it was written by such a terrrible man.

  22. Eric 07:04am, 03/25/2015

    Love true crime, “The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer is one of my favorites. Mailer began to correspond with another Utah convict named Jack Henry Abbott while working on the Gary Gilmore story. Abbott had done some time with Gilmore and would go on to write a book himself, “In The Belly Of The Beast.” While I couldn’t ever see myself personally taking a liking to either one these writers, Mailer and Abbott produced two of my favorite true crime books. For those into serial killers, crime, the underword, etc.,  I would recommend, “Panzram- A Journal of Murder,” by Thomas Gaddis, “You Can’t Win,” by Jack Black, and “Taming The Beast-Charles Manson’s Life Behind Bars” by Edward George.

  23. Clarence George 05:44am, 03/25/2015

    I envy your having read it, Ted.  The theme is brilliant and original, but I just couldn’t get into the novel itself.  The same is true, by the way, of “Dracula” and “Frankenstein.”

    Did you ever read Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Bottle Imp” or W.W. Jacobs’ “The Monkey’s Paw”?  I could be way off base here, but I think you’d like them.  And if you’re into ghost stories, I heartily recommend M.R. James, the greatest ghost-story writer of them all.  That said, I don’t know if I ever read a greater such tale than Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows.”

  24. Ted Spoon 03:32am, 03/25/2015

    Clarence - no doubt about it, what you enjoy reading says a little about yourself. Being quite a fan of philosophy and iconoclastic writings, Dorian Gray ticked personal boxes beyond the prose and the story.

  25. Bob 01:54am, 03/25/2015

    Great stuff here. What a diverse crew. For Ted Sares: Try reading one of the many books by Charley Stella. I think he will make your next list. He’s right up your alley. The intro to this piece was terrific, as was the content. Dad to see it is the final installment.

  26. Eric 04:58pm, 03/24/2015

    Call it. You have to call it.

  27. Kid Blast 04:22pm, 03/24/2015

    Wow, Cormac McCarthy is kind of popular.

  28. Kid Blast 02:24pm, 03/24/2015

    Yes, CG, The Monster was an Italian serial killer who did very bad things to his victims, most of whom were pretty females.

  29. Eric 01:48pm, 03/24/2015

    @Mike Silver…I remember reading Rocky Marciano: Biography Of A First Son, back in the late 70’s, still my favorite boxing book of all-time. I purchased the expanded version when it came out in 2005. Have also read Rocky Marciano: The Rock Of His Times, agree with you, another great book on the Brockton Blockbuster. For any other Marciano or maybe fans of Italian fighters, “The Italian Stallions” by Thomas Hauser & Stephen Brunt features Italian fighters like Carnera, Pep, LaMotta, Giardello, Basilio, Marciano, Graziano, Canzoneri, Pastrano, etc.

  30. NYIrish 01:40pm, 03/24/2015

    A good read, Peter. It is appreciated.

  31. Clarence George 01:38pm, 03/24/2015

    Very interesting.  Some unexpected choices here, which is not at all meant as criticism.  Someone, for example, mentioned “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” which I found unreadable.  But, hey, that’s me.  I liked the movie version, with George Sanders.  Hurd Hatfield, who played Dorian, was less favorably disposed:  “I never understood why I got the part, and have spent my career regretting it.”

    I share your admiration for George V. Higgins, Ted.  He’s completely unread today, and has been for a long time, which I find nothing short of insane.  There many writers who were once popular, but who are today forgotten (Alistair MacLean, for instance), but it’s completely inexplicable and indefensible in Higgins’ case.

    I assume “The Monster of Florence” is about the uncaught serial killer, known for his longevity.  Interesting case.

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