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A Man’s World By Donald McRae

Release date: 10th September, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

List Price: £20.00
Our Price: £16.59
You Save: £3.41 (17%)
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Donald McRae has twice authored books that have won the coveted sports book of the year accolade and with A Man’s World, the extraordinary story of American boxer Emile Griffiths, he has produced another contender that could see him claim an award hat-trick later this year.

No professional boxer has ever fought as many (337) world championship rounds as Griffiths racked up during a nineteen-year career between 1958 to 1977. That statistic could underpin any tale of boxing prowess, but Griffith was different from the caricatured, broken-nosed bruiser we’ve grown used to seeing in black-and-white photographs of early-Sixties American boxing.

Griffiths, you see, was gay, at a time when revealing – or even hinting at – your homosexuality to the world was to be labelled a deviant. To do so in the harsh world of boxing was akin to professional suicide, which is why Griffiths was forced to maintain a public silence when questions regarding his sexual preferences were aired.

McRae’s ability to draw the reader in with his fine story-telling begins with his impressive scene-setting: Griffiths’ rise began at a time when Nixon and Kennedy fought for the US presidency, when Barbara Streisand’s career was still limited to gigs at small New York clubs and when racial segregation was not only widespread, but legal.

Despite, or perhaps because, he encountered so many obstacles, Griffiths, who enjoyed his job working in a ladies’ hat-making factory, would become a world champion within two years of donning boxing gloves for the first time. He claimed the world welterweight title, knocking out Benny ‘Kid’ Paret in Miami, in April 1961.

The press, forbidden from using the ‘h’ word in their copy, instead used a series of euphemistic phrases and regular references to Griffiths’ ‘flamboyance’ to describe a man who, away from the ring, could wax lyrical about Jackie Kennedy’s latest pillbox hat, though once he stepped through the ropes, he was a finely-tuned boxing machine.

Having lost his title, Paret was desperate for revenge and sought to undermine his former friend, calling him a ‘faggot’ prior to their second fight. Paret would reclaim his crown, but Griffiths never forgot the humiliation of being taunted in public. Their third meeting, in March 1962, was brutal; McRae’s description of the damage inflicted by Griffiths on an opponent who had called him a maricón as vivid an account of a sickeningly brutal boxing bout as any you’ll ever read.

A Man’s World is a compelling story, penned by one of the finest authors of sporting tomes. Don’t miss it.


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