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Boxing's Hall of Shame by Thomas Myler

Release date: 06th May, 2006
Publisher: Mainstream Publishing

List Price: £10.99
Our Price: £7.25
You Save: £3.74 (34%)
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Boxing's Hall of Shame
By Thomas Myler
Mainstream Publishing price: £7.25 saving 34% on rrp

It's strange that, given boxing's occasionally questionable status where honesty is concerned, few writers have taken it upon themselves to submit known facts regarding the sport's association with fixing, dives, backhanders and intimidation to paper.

However, boxing enthusiasts and lovers of a good read will be pleased that Thomas Myler, one of the sport's leading historians, has done so in what can only be described as a fascinating history of the ring's less righteous characters.

The book's foreword, written by James Roberts, attempts to pinpoint why boxing is more susceptible to being rigged than most other sports. He suggests two principal, perfectly logical reasons: first, that there are only two active participants and second, that because boxers are, in effect, individual businesses, it can, on occasion, be extremely profitable to take a dive and lose.

Nor is this a modern phenomenon. At Epsom racecourse in 1771, the holder of the 'Championship of England', a bar owner named Bill Darts, agreed to lose a title fight against an Irish challenger, Peter Corcoran, in return for £100. Two hundred years later, during the second Cassius Clay - Sonny Liston bout, Clay floored Liston with what became known as 'The Phantom Punch', ostensibly because it never connected.

Myler develops his theme with the easy pace and timing of a Sugar Ray Leonard, suggesting that many boxers enter the ring in order to escape poverty only after an enforced spell at reform school, while several others remain involved in crime their whole life. By inference, fixing and corruption are an integral part of the fight game, while the attention of more unsavoury types, in the form of mobsters and racketeers, is never far away.

Of course, boxing is not the only sport tainted with scandal. Horse racing, football and cricket are frequently investigated following allegations of betting irregularities, while sports such as cycling, athletics and rugby have occasionally been afflicted by drugs.

Yet like a bad smell, even today boxing cannot shake off its questionable reputation, something which Myler feels is attributable to "frightening mismatches [which] still mar the sport" and "boxers long past their sell-by date ÷ still pushing their hands into gloves and climbing wearily into [the] ring."

Myler is particularly adept at providing readers with a bigger picture, adding background, names and locations away from the ring which have a direct influence upon outcomes inside of it.

For example, when he describes how New York gangster Frankie Carbo, boxing's 'Underworld Commissioner', controlled the sport with the violent assistance of characters such as Frank 'Blinky' Palermo, it enables readers to understand why most boxers were reluctant to come forward and testify against the mobsters responsible for milking it dry.

In a chapter entitled 'King of the Hustlers', Myler assesses the role of the ubiquitous Don King, a man who famously raised $80,000 for a hospital in Cleveland by persuading Muhammad Ali to box in an exhibition bout. "What King did not say," he adds, "was that the hospital allegedly got only $17,000, the balance being swallowed up for 'expenses'."

Regrettably, those 'frightening mismatches' will continue to take place and ageing boxers will continue to struggle into the ring. Why? Well, after reading Myler's excellent book, one wonders whether the influence of underworld types and gangsters has disappeared altogether; it would surprise few people if it hadn't evaporated completely.

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