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Cinderella Man: James Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History Hardcover – May 3, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In retelling the story of a near-impossible sports comeback in 1935, Schaap intricately chronicles the history of boxing during the Depression. Jimmy Braddock, an Irish-American heavyweight who began his career as a light heavyweight, was determined to win the title until a series of jinxes hit: the stock market crashed, he broke his dominant hand and a succession of losses crushed his spirit. Schaap, host of ESPN's Outside the Lines, goes into captivating detail on the brawny, reserved Braddock, who, at his lowest moments, was reduced to living off government relief and doing grueling work on the Hoboken, N.J., docks. But the story is as much about Max Baer, the lovably clownish and handsome heavyweight Braddock defeated as a 10-to-one underdog. The account is inspiring: no one ever thought Braddock would come back, especially against Baer, who'd previously killed two men in the ring. Braddock succeeded with the help of his manager, the short, fast-talking Joe Gould; the two were "the sport's favorite odd couple." Boxing enthusiasts will be more than satisfied by Schaap's meticulous account, which includes round-by-round details of the fight, as well as profiles of other fighters of the era. Not overly emotional, the story hits a nerve at just the right moments and features many of the same elements that made Seabiscuit a hit. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Just a few months removed from receiving welfare to supplement his income as a dockworker, a small, slow, washed-up fighter became heavyweight champion of the world. James J. "Cinderella Man" Braddock's life makes a heck of a story, but there hasn't been a biography of him in decades. Schaap, an ESPN veteran, portrays Braddock as a man of his time. After a promising start in the late 1920s, Braddock--a lovable family man with three kids--ended up as broke and beaten as the country. But with the help of a fast-talking manager whose passion for the sport was equaled only by Braddock's own, the fighter managed to emerge from his Great Depression to make an improbable run at the title, culminating in the defeat of the gargantuan Max Baer in 1935. Like a SportsCenter puff piece, Schaap's account can get repetitive and doesn't always delve deep. But the fights here are crisply drawn, and Braddock's upsets have that Hoosiers thrill factor. Plus, it's refreshing to find a boxing story where the right guy wins, nobody cheats, and most everyone lives happily ever after. John Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (May 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618551174
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618551170
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #581,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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It is the best sports book I have ever read!
Alan Ross
The book that fulfills that need is Jeremy Schaap's Cinderella Man - James J. Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History.
Thomas Duff
Schaap's book is a great story of both boxers and the time period the historic fight took place in.
Michael A. Fabrizio

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By M. Dog VINE VOICE on June 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that there were no second acts to American lives. Yet, a fellow Irishman (one much less gloomy) proved him very, very wrong.

This book is the homage that James J. Braddock has always deserved. Braddock's amazing story has been slowly fading from public memory, as well as the memory of modern boxing fans, steadily over the years. This book puts things right.

Author, Jeremy Schaap, has written a Godsend of a book for Braddock fans, and his clean, direct style is perfectly suited to telling this story. If Schaap were a boxer, he would be referred to as a cagey, "cute" fighter; meaning that it might appear that he isn't doing much, but what he does counts and he will be there at the end of the fight with his glove raised.

To put it another way, there is nothing prosy in Schaap's writing; but he really knows the way to hit the right spots. Like any very good writer, he recognizes true moments of drama and plays these moments with a pure economy of words that come at you from the blue. Bang! Suddenly I found myself very moved and didn't even see it coming.

James J. Braddock was in so many ways the perfect product of the Great Depression. He was a washed-up fighter, his best years behind him. He had been cleaned out by the depression, desperately trying to feed his family by taking odd jobs at the docks in New Jersey, even going on relief (which so humiliated him he wouldn't tell anyone, not even his mother). Yet dock work had made him lean and tough, so when his second chance came, the hard knocks of life had prepared him.

People loved him not because he was white, or Irish. Americans loved him because he was like them - all of them - and he represented a hope.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Alan Ross on May 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is the best sports book I have ever read! The author pulled no punches in detailing the amazing story of Braddock. The boxer's highs and lows were vividly portrayed. You could smell the gym, feel the training, and taste the victory. Moreover, the political, economic and social state of the world in those times was marvelously woven into the fabric of the story. This book was truly a joy to experience. By the end of the story, two champions emerged, Braddock and Schaap.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
James J. Braddock wasn't a great Heavyweight Champ; he lost the title in his first defense bout after he'd won it. But his is, perhaps, the greatest comeback story of 20th century pugilism. The CINDERELLA MAN had heart.

Author Jeremy Schaap's book begins with the commencement of Braddock's comeback in June 1934 with his victory over "Corn" Griffin. Jim's last previous fight had been nine months earlier, at the end of which, with a right hand that had been repeatedly broken and numerous defeats under his belt, he was thought to be washed up. To the point of the Griffin match-up, he was barely able to feed his family with odd jobs on the New York and New Jersey docks and welfare help; it was the Depression, and Braddock's fortunes were at their rock bottom. Then, Schaap regresses in time to the period 1926-33 when Jim fought as a light heavyweight, almost winning that title in 1929. The author alternates the early Braddock saga with the same for the 1929-1934 career of Max Baer, who won the heavyweight title from Primo Canera, also in June 1934, thus setting up the confrontation that established Jim's fame and won him the heavyweight crown, the Braddock-Baer bout in June 1935.

Schaap's summaries of Braddock's eighty-three fights and Baer's forty-seven prior to their epic battle are, almost by necessity in a volume of only 276 pages, spotty in detail, yet are sufficient to establish the two fighters' characters. There is an adequate section of photographs, as well as the complete ring records of both Braddock and Baer and a complete listing of all the heavyweight division champs since John L. Sullivan. (Who is Hasim Rahman, champ in 2001, for Pete's sake?!)

For a boxing aficionado, CINDERELLA MAN is perhaps, despite its relative brevity, a must read.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Edward E. Crump on July 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
After seeing the recent movie, I had to read the book, and I enjoyed the story very much. I was impressed with the "fairer" treatment of Max Baer, than portrayed in the movie. The "human side" of James J. was an inspiration, and the injuries and condition he had to overcome was significant.

We could use more people nowadays with the stamina and "guts" to face life and triumph.

Excellent read!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sam Musachia on February 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you liked the movie you will love the book. The book goes into much greater detail about the man and the time period. Also, if you want to know more about Max B. you will not be disappointed. He was unfairly shown in the movie as a one dimensional bad guy.

If you want to step into a time machine and see what boxing was like in the late 20's and early 30's, this one is for you. I could not put it down till I was done.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Platek on May 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If you're looking for a feel good book that's a quick read, then this is the book for you. This book is definitely not in the same league as Seabiscuit or When Pride Mattered, but it's nicely written and tells a good story: the improbably victory of James Braddock. Perfect for summer reading.
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