Barely able to make it into the heavyweight division and almost always the smaller fighter in the ring, Holyfield spent his professional career proving the naysayers wrong. Along the way he provided some of the twentieth century's most thrilling sports moments, not all of them on purpose. In Becoming Holyfield, he gives us the exciting inside story of defeating Mike Tyson, the self-proclaimed "Baddest Man on Earth," and then getting a piece of his ear bitten off in the rematch. We learn how it felt to become the undisputed champion of the world by knocking out the man who knocked out Tyson, and we find out what it was really like to be in the middle of a title fight and see a motorized parachute fly right into the ring.
There is heartbreak to go along with triumph, beginning with Holyfield's loss of an Olympic gold medal because of a highly controversial disqualification and continuing through his short-lived retirement following a misdiagnosed heart condition. Along the way we're treated to glimpses of such colorful figures as Don King and Howard Cosell and we come to understand the extra-ordinary power of love in shaping a young boy's life, and the love he tried to return. Holyfield made more money in the ring than any other fighter in history, and gave away millions to support the dreams of underprivileged kids looking for the same kinds of breaks that allowed him to become a champion.
Holyfield's immense popularity cannot be overstated, and it cuts across all ethnicities and socioeconomic classes. The top three highest-grossing sporting events in Las Vegas history were all Holyfield fights, and his highly rated appearances on Dancing with the Stars helped to ensure that show's success. Other fighters may have been bigger, stronger, or more flamboyant, but few could match Evander Holyfield's poise, grace under pressure, or commitment to serve as an inspiration to others.
In addition to the fights themselves, the memoir recounts, among many other things, Johnson's brief and amusing career as a local politician in Galveston, Texas; his experience hunting kangaroos in Australia; and his epic bouts of seasickness. It includes portraits of some of the most famous boxers of the 1900-1915 era--such truly legendary figures as Joe Choynski, Jim Jeffries, Sam McVey, Bob Fitzsimons, Philadelphia Jack O'Brien, and Stanley Ketchel. Johnson comments explicitly on race and the color line in boxing and in American society at large in ways that he probably would not have in a publication destined for an American reading public. The text constitutes genuinely new, previously unavailable material and will be of great interest for the many readers intrigued by Jack Johnson. In addition to providing information about Johnson's life, it is a fascinating exercise in self-mythologizing that provides substantial insights into how Johnson perceived himself and wished to be perceived by others. Johnson's personal voice comes through clearly-brash, clever, theatrical, and invariably charming. The memoir makes it easy to see how and why Johnson served as an important role model for Muhammad Ali and why so many have compared the two.
Born Dov-Ber Rasofsky to Eastern European immigrant parents, Barney Ross grew up in a tough Chicago neighborhood and witnessed his father’s murder, his mother’s nervous breakdown, and the dispatching of his three younger siblings to an orphanage, all before he turned fourteen. To make enough money to reunite the family, Ross became a petty thief, a gambler, a messenger boy for Al Capone, and, eventually, an amateur boxer. Turning professional at nineteen, he would capture the lightweight, junior welterweight, and welterweight titles over the course of a ten-year career.
Ross began his career as the scrappy “Jew kid,” ended it as an American sports icon, and went on to become a hero during World War II, earning a Silver Star for his heroic actions at Guadalcanal. While recovering from war wounds and malaria he became addicted to morphine, but with fierce effort he ultimately kicked his habit and then campaigned fervently against drug abuse. And the fighter who brought his father’s religious books to training camp also retained powerful ties to the world from which he came. Ross worked for the creation of a Jewish state, running guns to Palestine and offering to lead a brigade of Jewish American war veterans.
This first biography of one of the most colorful boxers of the twentieth century is a galvanizing account of an emblematic life: a revelation of both an extraordinary athlete and a remarkable man.
From the Hardcover edition.
No other boxing anthology can match Boxiana’s eclectic range of subject matter, or its in-depth examination of issues and characters from boxing’s past, present and future.
Featured in Volume 1: comic book legend Trevor Von Eeden analyses the significance of Jack Johnson; Mario Mungia tries his hand at amateur boxing; Ben Williams uncovers his grandfather’s bareknuckle boxing career; Matthew Ogborn considers the issues boxers face on retirement; James Hernandez catches up with Jon Thaxton; rising light heavyweight Chris Hobbs recounts his life in the military and the ring; Rowland Stone recalls a heady night in 1992; Corey Quincy attempts to solve the Wladimir Klitschko conundrum and Luke G. Williams examines the meteoric rise of Deontay Wilder and the under-rated career of Chris Byrd.
Boxiana will appeal to fans of adult boxing and sports, as well as students of sports and boxing history.