Have news relating to Jewish boxers? Email the editor here!

Monday, January 17, 2022

Review of Championship Rounds

Championship Rounds
By Bernard Fernandez
RKMA Publishing, 2020

"Boxing is an improbable union of naked power and subtle artistry, of stark fear and unbridled courage," says Hall of Fame boxing scribe Bernard Fernandez, who is at his best when writing a heartfelt story about Bernard Hopkins's relationship with Shaun Negler, a cancer-stricken kid, or about Craig Bodzianowski, the one legged cruiserweight.

Fernandez shows off his storytelling abilities in Championship Rounds, a collection of his boxing articles through the years, many of them focused on his adopted hometown of Philadelphia. Within his articles, he expertly places anecdotes in perfect positions. It makes for engaging profiles.

There are some issues, however. While the organization within each article is impeccable, the organization of the book as a whole is a bit scattershot. The chapters are divided into sections, but the sections themselves are forced and don't serve a greater purpose. In most of his articles, Fernandez shows compassion for the people he covers, but there are times when he mocks a boxer's eccentricities without attempting to understand their origin. The joke about James Toney and Riddick Bowe's weight gain falls flat, for example.

Typos are a bizarre aspect of the book. For the most part, they're so minor they're not worth mentioning but for the fact that virtually none of the errors appear in Fernandez's original articles. In the Kindle edition at least, the rematch between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston is ludicrously suggested to have taken place in 1985. In the original article, the appropriate date of 1965 is present. In the same article, one about the fight between Laila Ali and Jacqui Frazier-Lyde, the date for Laila's debut is incorrectly stated as 1989 in both the book and, as an exception to the rule, in the original too.

Speaking of women's boxing, Fernandez has an entire section on the subject and attempts to be supportive. In the foreword, George Foreman describes Fernandez as "among the last of a dying breed." It's meant as a compliment, but it can unflatteringly describe his opinion of women's boxing and the way he writes about women in general. While supposedly bemoaning the fact that women's boxing was viewed as a novelty, he includes an article about Tonya Harding's boxing career in the book. Even when discussing a serious boxer, Claressa Shields,  he ponders if she can save women's boxing, a tired trope even by the time of the article's debut in 2016. Problematically, there isn't a female in the book whose level of attractiveness escapes comment it seems.

No Jews are featured, but many make brief cameos: Al Braverman, Don Elbaum, Bruce Silvergrade, Al Bernstein, Howard Cossell, Shelly Finkel, and Larry Merchant among them. Of course, it's hard to write a book about boxing over the past fifty years without mentioning the name Bob Arum. Trainer Ray Arcel, Ruby Goldstein (as a ref), Damon Feldman, and Bruce "Mouse" Strauss also appear.

In Championship Rounds articles about the likes of Tex Cobb and Archie Moore were fascinating. Reading another of the same old stuff about Mike Tyson, less so. But there's enough interesting content present to outweigh the book's shortcomings.

No comments:

Post a Comment