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Friday, January 28, 2022

Review of Boxing in Atlantic City

Boxing in Atlantic City
By John DiSanto and Matthew H. Ward
Arcadia, 2021

I love Arcadia's Images of America series, and Boxing in Atlantic City by John DiSanto and Matthew H. Ward is no exception. These books have short introductions to each photograph-filled chapter. The captions are usually information-stuffed paragraphs.

Boxing in the New Jersey oceanside town started in the 1800s and chugged along until the 1960s. Many of the city's fights took place at Waltz Dream Arena. Convention Hall became another important local venue for the sport. It housed Joey Giardello's decision victory against Dick Tiger in their fifteen round fight for the world middleweight championship in 1963.

And then, nothing.

There were no more boxing matches in Atlantic City until 1973. Promoter Frank Gelb brought the fights back to the shore. With the legalization of casinos and their entry into the boxing business in the late 1970s, Atlantic City became a real hub of the fight game during the 1980s. From the 1990s onward, Atlantic City's importance in boxing has waned, but fans still flock to the occasional big fight.

Boxing in Atlantic City features photos of many of boxing's most important fighters including Harry Greb, Sugar Ray Robinson, Bob Montgomery, Sandy Saddler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Aaron Pryor, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, Mike Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez, Pernell Whitaker, Oscar De La Hoya, and Floyd Mayweather just to name a few. There's also a collection of lesser-known but significant figures such as Harry Wills, Sam McVea, and George Godfrey. All of these legends tended to have a fight or two in Atlantic City. In addition to the all-time greats, this book chronicles boxers who were based in Atlantic City; Arturo Gatti is, of course, one example. There are a couple pictures of heavyweights fighting kangaroos too, in case that's your thing.

Jewish boxers Benny Bass, Maxie Rosenbloom, and Mike Rossman are all featured while other Jewish boxers merit briefer mentions. Countless Jews worked outside the ring in Atlantic City and many are pictured in the book.

If there's a criticism it's that many of the photos are portraits of the boxers. These are great, but the best photos are the action shots and those of the old venues. Nevertheless, the writing provides a strong complement to the many irresistible images. Boxing in Atlantic City is a great jumping off point to learn more about the history of the sport in Atlantic City and beyond.

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