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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Review of Stars and Scars

Stars and Scars: The Story of Jewish Boxing in London

By Jeff Jones
Amberley Publishing, 2023

Jeff Jones's noble mission in Stars and Scars is to show "the importance of Jews to sport" and to dispel "the perceived notion that their involvement was marginal." Through plenty of fascinating anecdotes, biographical sketches, and wonderfully illuminating information, Jones more than meets his aim.

He contends, "From Mendoza to Milch, 230 years of London Jewish boxing has witnessed some astonishing events." Jones recounts the enthralling lives of men like the colorful Cockney Cohen, the slick Harry Mizler, the elite Ted "Kid" Lewis, the incomparable Micky Duff, the whirlwind Jack "Kid" Berg, the veteran Sid Nathan, and many more.

A scattershot organization and the need for a good line edit prevent this book from being on the "Mount Rushmore" of Jewish boxing books, however. Everything from bareknuckle brawlers to stars, journeyman, promoters, referees, and venues are covered. There are chapters on boxing families and boxers who fought in war. The piecemeal stories of Berg, Mizler, and Lewis - to name a few- could have been more powerful if they had been weaved into a chronological narrative that provided clearer context for their careers. The terms "reasonable" and "useful" are overused to described serviceable fighters, admittedly a minor quibble.

The organization does serve to prove the author's argument: that Jews were featured in every nook and cranny of boxing in London for nearly 200 years. Though the wealth of information is vast and somewhat disjointed, it is eminently accessible, which makes Stars and Scars a great introduction for all readers to Jewish boxing in London. Its focus on breadth rather than depth makes it an appropriate jumping off point to learn more about these legendary Londoners. Experts and those with limited knowledge of the subject can't help but learn a ton while simultaneously being entertained.

Fans of Jewish boxing and of British boxing should have Scars and Stars in their personal libraries. The richness of boxing history within its pages easily outweighs any of its shortcomings. 

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