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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Review of Sporting Blood

Sporting Blood: Tales from the Dark Side of Boxing
By Carlos Acevedo
Hamilcar Publications, 2020.

Sporting Blood consists of just over twenty brief portraits of noteworthy boxers. The real star of the book is Carlos Acevedo, whose artistry with words is reminiscent of an ancient sculptor with clay. The ideas behind each article aren't too complicated, but Acevedo stretches even the most educated person's vocabulary, though for the most part, his linguist punches find their target.

Generally, Acevedo chronicles an ex-champion who was on top of the world before his life found a tragic end. Don Jordan, Johnny Saxton, Johnny Tapia, Aaron Pryor, and Tony Ayala are just some of the boxers in this book who fit this archetype. A few chapters focus elsewhere: Muhammad Ali isn't the ideal icon for American liberals, Joe Frazier always resented Ali, and Roberto Duran showed surprising compassion for Esteban DeJesus when DeJesus was ill.

Al Singer, the lone Jewish boxer to receive his own profile, follows the familiar path of meteoric rise to the top followed by crashing fall. The other chapters in the book are more satisfying than the one about Singer, unfortunately. Acevedo relies too much on the curmudgeonly columnist Westbrook Pegler, who seemed to have a particular disdain for Singer. Acevedo plays up Singer's incidental ties to the mob although he doesn't make any explicit accusations. He conflates Singer's nicknames- "the Bronx Beauty" and "the Battling Bronco of the Bronx"- to "The Bronx Bronco," which is the mascot of Bronx Community College. But it's fun to read just how popular Al Singer was in his heyday.

Jewish boxers Saoul Mamby, Leach Cross, Solly Seeman, Ruby Goldstein, Sid Terris, and Mike Rossman all make brief cameos in the book. Bob Arum appears in a profile of Davey Moore. Acevedo doesn't much care for "Bottom Line Bob." He writes, "Not even the moral stain of apartheid could prevent Arum from making money in South Africa."

Sporting Blood is for those of us who love boxing history written in elegant prose. You'll learn a lot, but even if you don't, it's worth a read for the beautiful writing.

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