Monday 21 April 2014

Boxing: Dunne's hard-knocks tale just one to tick the Christmas box

There are some knockout boxing books on the Christmas and New Year market so let us take a look at some of them.

'Bernard Dunne: The Ecstasy and the Agony' by Barry Flynn gives a detailed inside track on the life and times of the popular Northside Dubliner who fought his way through the amateur ranks and 13 Irish titles to the world and European super-bantamweight championships.

Dunne's story is one of endurance and dedication. After missing out a place on the 2000 Sydney Olympics team through the lottery that is the qualifying system, he made up his mind to turn pro and moved to Los Angeles a year later under ace coach Freddie Roach.

He persevered through injuries, brain scans that seriously threatened his career, homesickness, red tape and promoters who went bankrupt to run up an impressive record of 14 wins without a loss or draw before returning home in 2005, under Brian Peters' management, to campaign for a European title.

As Flynn reminds us, this was the start of a roller-coaster period for Dunne,where in just under three years he won and lost world and European titles.

Whatever happens from now on, Dunne's legacy is assured as one of a small handful of Irish boxers of the modern era to have reached the ultimate pinnacle as champion of the world.

'Jacobs Beach: The Mob, The Garden and the Golden Age of Boxing' has Kevin Mitchell taking a long, hard look at the gangster influence on the sport in the US in the 1940s and 1950s.

Mike Jacobs, 'Uncle Mike', was the leading promoter of the 1940s mainly because he had a great world heavyweight champion and top drawing-card in Joe Louis. There was never any evidence of any wrongdoing by Jacobs, who had his offices in New York and was one of 11 children of an emigrant family from Dublin.

But he could not keep the gangster element at bay, and on one of his promotions in New York in 1947 Jake LaMotta, later the subject of the movie 'Raging Bull' with Robert de Niro, took a dive against Billy Fox, an incident he has never been allowed to forget to this day.

Mitchell recounts that LaMotta had come under the influence of the unholy underworld twosome of Frankie Carbo and Frank 'Blinky' Palermo who effectively ruled the American boxing scene in the 1940s and through the 1950s.

Together with new promoter Jim Norris, they eased Jacobs out of the picture and effectively monopolised the sport until 1960 when a US Senate investigation broke up the cartel and restored the sport to some respectability at a time, Mitchell says, when "the fight game was in danger of being choked to death".

'Champ in the Corner: The Ray Arcel Story' is not so much the story of the famous US trainer who coached 20 world champions but tales of the boxers themselves. Told by John Jarrett, it covers some of boxing's most famous fights, including the two big ones between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran.

Arcel began an eight-year association with Duran in the 1970s, guiding the Panamanian to the world welterweight title against Leonard.

It ended when Duran quit in the eighth round of their return fight. Saddened by the shock finish, he never worked with Duran again.

Arcel also trained 14 opponents against Joe Louis, all losers, before coming up with Ezzard Charles, who outpointed the Brown Bomber in 1950. The last great boxer he coached was Larry Holmes for his successful world heavyweight title defence against Gerry Cooney in 1982.

Lastly, 'the Boxing Yearbook 2010' by Barry Hugman is once again the indispensable record book for fight fans. It contains fight-by-fight records of boxers all over the world; listings of world, European and British champions down the years and a comprehensive amateur section. Everything you wanted to know, and more.

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