Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Thirteen

By Peter Weston Wood on October 10, 2014
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Thirteen
“This book by W.C. Heinz I love because it has the ring of truth to it—no pun intended!”

“This book about a young Jack Dempsey was like a fantasy—him riding boxcars, living with hobos. I wanted to become a fighter after reading this book…”

I asked professional fighters to finish this sentence: “MY FAVORITE BOOK IS…” Their responses were fascinating and illuminating; sometimes surprising and sometimes just plain funny. 

If the adage, “We are what we eat” is true, then “We are what we read” might also be true.

Read the responses of these tough guys (and tough girls) and peek into the soul of a prizefighter.

Their book could be fiction, nonfiction, memoir, autobiography, history, sport-related, or not. We simply wanted to peek into their soul and see what book—as a kid, or now—knocked them out!

Below, are their responses. Enjoy!

1. Gerry Cooney—Thunderous Left-Hooking Heavyweight

o Lost to Larry Holmes for WBC Title in 1982 (TKO 13)
o Lost to George Foreman (TKO 2); Michael Spinks (TKO 5)
o Beat Ken Norton (KO 1)
o Beat Ron Lyle (KO 1)
o Beat Jimmy Young (TKO 4)
o Beat John “Dino” Dennis (TKO 3)
o NYC Two-Time Golden Gloves Champion
o Won 28 (KO 24) + lost 3 (KO 3) + drawn 0 = 31

Gerry Cooney’s Favorite Book: “The Harder They Fall” by Jane Merrill

“A memorable book! In ‘The Harder They Fall,’ publicist Gary Stromberg and author Jane Merrill write stories about twenty-one celebrities and their experiences with addictions. My story is in there, too. Stromberg begins with his own story about how he got addicted and how hard he had to hit bottom before he could climb up on top again. It’s a must read.”

2. Iran “The Blade” Barkley—WBC Middleweight Champion, WBA Light Heavyweight Champion & IBF Super Middleweight Champion

o Defeated Thomas Hearns, (TKO 3) for the WBA Light Heavyweight Championship (1988 Upset of the Year—Ring Magazine March 20, 1992 – Sept. 29, 1992
o Defeated Thomas Hearns a second time (SD 12)
o Defeated Darrin Van Horn (TKO 2) for IBF Super Middleweight Championship Jan. 10, 1992 – Feb. 13, 1993
o Defeated Gerrie Coetzee (TKO 10)
o Defeated Michael Olajide (TKO 5)
o Amateur Accomplishments:
o 1981 New York Golden Gloves, Silver Medal (165 lbs.) losing to Dennis Milton
o 1981 Empire State Games, Gold Medal (165 lbs.)
o 1982 Copenhagen Box Cup, Bronze Medal (165 lbs.)
o 1982 World Amateur championship in Munich, Bronze Medal (165 lbs)
o Won 43 (KO 27) + lost 19 (KO 7) + drawn 1 = 63

Iran Barkley’s Favorite Book: “The Greatest—My Own Story by: Muhammad Ali”

“There were three fighters I looked up to: Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Joe Louis. I think I was a throwback to those types of fighters. The Muhammad Ali story I really liked that book.”

3. “Irish” Bobby Cassidy—New York State Light Heavyweight Champion (1977)

o Defeated Isaac Logart (TKO 4)
o Defeated Don Fullmer (SD 10)
o Defeated Jimmy Dupree (twice) (UD 10)
o Defeated Tom Bethea (D 10)
o Defeated Ramon Ranquello (W 10)
o Defeated Karl Zurheide (KO 4)
o Won 59 (KO 27) + lost 16 (KO 6) + drawn 3 = 79

Bobby Cassidy’s Favorite Book: “The Jack Dempsey Story” by Gene Schoor

“The best book I ever read? There’s no doubt about it: The Jack Dempsey Story! Nah, as a kid I wasn’t much of a reader. My family didn’t push me to read. But this book about a young Jack Dempsey was like a fantasy—him riding boxcars, living with hobos, and fighting in salons for money. I wanted to become a fighter after reading this book.”

4. Paulie “The Magic Man” Malignaggi––WBA Welterweight Champ; IBF Light Welterweight Titleholder

o Defeated Zab Judah (UD 12)
o Defeated Pablo Cesar Cano (SD 12)
o Defeated Vyacheslav Senchenko (TKO 9)
o Defeated Jose Miguel Cotto (UD 10)
o Defeated Lovemore Ndou (SD 12) & (UD 12)
o Defeated Orlando Lora (UD 10)
o Defeated Rocky Martinez (UD 10)
o Won 33 (KO 7) + lost 6 (KO 3) + drawn 0 = 39 (rounds boxed 314 KO% 17.95)

Paulie Malignaggi’s Favorite Book: “From the Streets to the Ring” by Teddy Atlas

“Geez! Ya wouldn’t think it, but I read a lotta good books. Let me think…The last good one I read was…Atlas’s book. Yeah, Atlas’s book!”

5. Lou Duva—Former Fighter; Hall of Fame Boxing Trainer & Manager

o Fighters Managed:
o Rocky Lockridge
o Johnny Bumphus
o Zab Judah
o Fighters Trained:
o Andrew Golota
o Meldrick Taylor
o Vinny Pazienza
o Pernell Whitaker
o Mark Breland
o Evander Holyfield
o Professional Boxing Record: won 5 (KO 0) + lost 7 (KO 1) + drawn 1 = 13

Lou Duva’s Favorite Book: “The Professional” by W. C. Heinz

“The only thing more important to me than boxing, is my family, my grandkids…. I do it all for them. But reading is up there, too. This book by W.C. Heinz I love because it has the ring of truth to it—no pun intended!”

6. Seamus McDonagh––Rugged 1990s Heavyweight Contender

o Lost to Evander Holyfield for WBC Continental American Heavyweight Title, (TKO 4) in 1989
o 1985 NYC Golden Gloves Heavyweight Champion
o Defeated Michael Greer (UD 10)
o Defeated Cecil Coffee (TKO 6)
o Defeated Tim Tomashek ((KO 1)
o Professional Actor
o won 19 (KO 14) + lost 3 (KO 2) + drawn 1 = 23

Seamus McDonagh’s Favorite Book: “Sting Like a Bee” by Jose Torres

“Reading about Muhammad Ali inspired me as a young fighter coming up. Even today, as an aspiring actor, I’m still inspired by Ali’s grace, confidence and wit.”

7. Herschel Jacobs—A Slick-Boxing Light Heavyweight Contender in 1960-1970s

o Defeated Milo Calhoun (D 10)
o Defeated Hal Carroll (D 12)
o Defeated Harold Johnson (TKO 3)
o Defeated Henry Hank (D 10)
o Won 27 (KO 11) + lost 19 (KO 0) + drawn 2 = 48

Herschel Jacobs’s Favorite Book: “The Fireside Book of Boxing”

“Me, I liked anything boxing. But there was one book that had all of the champions’ photographs, and one page flipped out, showing all of the heavyweight champs.”

8. Mark “River” McPherson—Slick Brooklyn Middleweight Contender

o Defeated Jeff McCracken. (D 10)
o Defeated Anthony Holt (TKO 10)
o Currently Works as Physical Trainer
o Won 20 (KO 8) + lost 3 (KO 2) + drawn 0 = 23

Mark McPherson’s Favorite Book: “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

“I like the male character—Holden Caulfield. He’s a quirky kind of guy, but he’s a fascinating kid and the book stays with you. This book is a great American classic.”

9. Dennis “The Magician” Milton—Four-Time NYC Golden Gloves Champion

o Slick Middleweight Contender
o Defeated Frank Tate
o Defeated Michael Olajide
o Defeated Gerald McClellan
o Defeated Robbie Sims
o Won 16 (KO 5) + lost 5 (KO 4) + drawn 1 = 22

Dennis Milton’s Favorite Book: The Quran

“The book I’ve enjoyed the most is The Holy Quran. It’s a book of wisdom, beauty and power. I recommend it to everyone.”

10. Dmitriy “Star of David” Salita—IBF International Light Welterweight Champion; Welterweight Champion

o 2001 NYC Golden Gloves Champion
o Promoter of Star of David Promotions
o Defeated Shawn Gallegos (TKO 9)
o Defeated Grover Wiley (UD 10)
o Defeated Derrick Campos (UD 10)
o Defeated Roberto Valenzuela (TKO 4)
o Defeated Francisco Compos (UD 10)
o Won 35 (KO 18) + lost 2 (KO 1) + drawn 1 = 38 (rounds boxed 216 KO% 47.37)

Dmitriy “Star of David” Salita’s Favorite Book: “No Man Stands Alone” by Barney Ross

“I like reading books about history, historical individuals, and watching boxing movies. My favorite book is ‘No Man Stands Alone’ about the great Jewish fighter Barney Ross. If you are going to read one book on Judaism, read ‘This is My G-d’ by Herman Wouk. I love this book. (I got to meet Mr. Wouk in Palm Springs when I was out there training. He is a gentleman and a scholar. And an awesome writer.) ‘102 Minutes’ is also an excellent book about what happened inside the Twin Towers from when the first plane hit until the buildings came down. Beware this is a sad story, sometimes gruesome, but the heroic efforts of the people that are in the book make a tragic but uplifting story.”

11. Andy Lee—NABF Light Middleweight Champion

o Represented Ireland as a Middleweight at the 2004 Olympic Games
o Defeated Carl Daniels (KO 3)
o Defeated John Jackson (KO 5)
o Defeated Brian Vera (UD 10)
o Defeated Saul Duran (TKO 2)
o Defeated Troy Lowry (TKO 4)
o Defeated Craig McEwan (TKO 10)
o Won 33 (KO 23) + lost 2 (KO 2) + drawn 0 = 35 (rounds boxed 189 KO% 65.71)

Andy Lee’s Favorite Book: “Moon Fleet” by John Meade Falkner

“This was a great adventure store about a young, poorly-treated orphan boy who, as luck would have it, stumbled upon something very rare. I won’t give it away! You have to read it yourself!”

12. James Moore—Former Light-Middleweight Contender

o Won three national senior titles and a bronze medal at the 2001 World Amateur Boxing Championships
o Defeated Charles Lloyd Joseph (UD 8)
o Defeated Juan Carlos Candelo (UD 10)
o Defeated Thomas Davis (TKO 2)
o Won 17 (KO 10) + lost 3 (KO 0) + drawn 0 = 20 (rounds boxed 100 KO% 50)

James Moore’s Favorite Book: “Poker” by Mark Blade

“I love poker. I love reading any book on poker. I’m pretty good at poker.”

13. Johnathon Banks—WBO & NABO cruiserweight titleholder

o Three-Time National Amateur Champion at 178 lbs.
o Defeated Seth Mitchell
o Defeated Nicolai Firtha (UD 12)
o Defeated Saul Montana (UD 12)
o Defeated Imamu Mayfield (TKO 1)
o Defeated Derrick Brown (UD 12)
o Defeated Eliseo Castillo (KO 4)
o Head trainer for Wladimir Klitschko
o Won 29 (KO 19) + lost 2 (KO 1) + drawn 1 = 32 (rounds boxed 167 KO% 59.38)

Johnathon Banks’ Favorite Book: “Brown Bomber” by Barney Nagler

“The Bible is one of my favorite books, but I also liked to read the biographies of famous sports stars when I was growing up—like Joe Louis.”

14. Frank Lombardi—Veteran NYSAC Pro Boxing Judge

o Undefeated Pro Welterweight Fighter in the 1970s
o Won 4 (KO 0) + lost 0 (KO 0) + drawn 0 = 4

Frank Lombardi’s Favorite Book: “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo

“Besides being a great story, and great film, Mario Puzo really got it right with the nuances and flavor of the various Southern Italian and Sicilian dialects. What a great book!”

(This is the 13th 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

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.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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Thomas Hearns - Iran Barkley 1



BOBBY CASSIDY, Counterpuncher - montage sequence



Paul Malignaggi vs Pablo Cesar Cano Showtime



Evander "The Real Deal" Holyfield vs Seamus Mcdonagh - Heavyweight Contest



Episode 4 - Herschel Jacobs Un-Crowned Light-Heavyweight Champ



Duane Thomas - Mark McPherson



BOXING Julian Jackson vs Dennis Milton



Amir Khan vs Dimitry Salita



HBO Boxing: Andy Lee vs. Craig McEwan Highlights (HBO)



James Moore vs. Chad Greenleaf on 18 Oct 2007



Seth Mitchell vs Johnathon Banks



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  1. Bob 05:38pm, 10/13/2014

    Another great boxing compilation. Dmitriy Salita mentions a book about the great Barney Ross. This might be off the beaten path, but in every book about Ross, his childhood friendship with Jack Ruby, the man who killed Lee Harvey Oswald, is mentioned.  I have yet to read a book about Ross that was not superb. Would love to read one about Ruby. For all that was written about the JFK assassination, relatively little has been written about Ruby. Another boxing gem I have yet to see mentioned in this compilation is “Victory Over Myself” by Floyd Patterson. It is a gem, just like Mr. Wood.

  2. isaac 06:55am, 10/13/2014

    Best book i have ever read, The Fight - Norman Mailer & Dark Trade - Donald McCrae

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