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Joe Gans: A Biography of the First African American World Boxing Champion

5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0786439942
ISBN-10: 0786439947
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Colleen Aycock and Mark Scott, and the McFarland Press, deserve our warm thanks in spotlighting the short, but singular, career of one of America's least well-known athletes, a lightweight boxer named Joe Gans....the various chapters of this biography are like a collection of Somerset Maugham short stories.... But the real value of Joe Gans is that the story line is gripping and is well-flavored with historical nuggets.
--SCOTT A.G.M. CRAWFORDEastern Illinois U., 2008

About the Author

Colleen Aycock's father was a professional fighter during the Depression. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Mark Scott, a novelist and former Golden Glove boxer, lives in Austin, Texas.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 294 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland (October 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786439947
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786439942
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #879,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

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Colleen Aycock and Mark Scott have produced a wonderful account of the life & times of Joe Gans (born November 25, 1874) - very probably the greatest lightweight (135 lbs & under) boxer of all-time and certainly one of the ten best fighters pound-for-pound in history - a book that is all the greater given the fact that it is the first in-depth bio of the fighter known as the "Old Master". And, unlike the recent (and absolutely superb) bio of Gans' peer, "Sam Langford: Boxing's Greatest Uncrowned Champion" (by Clay Moyle), which is tightly focused on its subject, this book also examines many non-boxing-related events, etc of late 19th and early 20th century life. Some of these topics are covered quickly (e.g. the Boxer Rebellion, the 1893 Columbian [as in Christopher Columbus] Exposition held in Chicago, Evelyn Nesbit and sex symbols of the period, etc), while others are elucidated at length (such as the scourge that was tuberculosis [which claimed Gans' life in 1910 when Joe was just 35 years old] and a fascinating examination of the influence of turn-of-the-century boxing on L. Frank Baum's "Wonderful Wizard of Oz" book and its illustrations by William Wallace Denslow). Furthermore, the authors reveal that Gans' historical importance isn't just due to what he accomplished in the ring (for example, in hiring a certain musician for his new hotel, Gans wound up making a big contribution to the musical genre known as "ragtime" and, consequently, to jazz).

In regard to Gans the boxer, the authors do a great job of exploding many of the myths about this peerless fighter, myths that grew into fact over the years precisely because there weren't any in-depth accounts of his life.
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By Pugwash on April 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Golden Age of Boxing has been attributed to the 1920's, 1940's and 1960's by various boxing writers. Mark Scott opts to believe it was the 1900's. The cast of characters were memorable. James Corbett, Bob Fitzsimmons, Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries were a few of them. But the most skilled, according to the author, was Joe Gans.

James Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons ushered in the concept of scientific boxing, but Gans took it to a whole new level. Moreover, Gans was a black man fighting in post-Victorian America. He gained a grudging acceptance and respect denied to Jack Johnson. Gans was not the brash, polarizing figure that Johnson was. He let his fists do his bidding, and was a master between the ringposts.

The author paints a vivid picture both of the fights, and of the times. He occasionally spins off theories which stretch the subject, such as the relevence of "The wizard of Oz" on th times and attitudes that shaped the sport of boxing and the attitudes toward black athletes of the time. It was interesting, but I question the relevance of these digressions.

Nevertheless, little, up to now has been known about Joe Gans, other than he was a huge influence on Jack Blackburn, Joe Louis' chief trainer. The descriptions of the fight with Battling Nelson were clear, and almost painful to read because of the brutality.

For the boxing historian, this book is a treat.
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Wonderfully detailed account of an amazing pugilist and person. Ability, class, heart, this guy had it all. What a shame he had to overcome as much as he did - lesser fighters dictating terms of bouts, assusations of cowardice because of his color, other fighters getting away with being dirty, managers taking advantage of him...the list goes on. All he did was beat everybody no matter what and did it with class and dignity. Oh yeah, he was dying of tuberculosis too. He was the king of turn of the century boxing, and maybe of all time. This one is right up there with the Greb and Langford books in terms of amazing fight details and getting to know the subject out of the ring as well. I couldn't put it down.
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This biography brings alive the times and trials of the immortal Joe Gans, who overcame every difficulty with his indomitable courage and willpower, to become the greatest pound for pound fighter of all time. In a world of Jim Crow prejudice and ignorance, rising from abject poverty, Gans fought near impossible odds, and the greatest array of quality competition any fighter has ever had to face, to become the world champion in three divisions. Throughout all his suffering and trials he maintained the humble attitude and manner of a great Christian saint toward all those who came against him; including managers, media, gamblers and cheats. This is a must read for any boxing fan, and an fountain of inspiration for those who face great difficulties and challenges in life. Far more than the story of the very first African American champion, it is the story of a great man who performed noble deeds, at great personal sacrifice, and deserves a place among the most inspiring personal biographies of all time.
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Format: Paperback
As we celebrate a new era in American and world history with the inauguration of America's first Black president, Barak Obama, it is fitting that we reflect and rediscover forgotten, neglected, overlooked, and inappropriately discarded African Americans whose lives and contributions have helped to shape our country and our destiny. As a collector, historian, and former professional athlete, I have great respect and appreciation for Ms. Colleen Aycock's work.
Meticulously researched to illustrate how this major Black world champion was undeservedly shortchanged in his lightweight and welterweight title reigns. The book also shows how sportswriters of the day called the shots, making an interesting connection between two influential early sportswriters, Nat Fleischer and his mentor, Charles Dana, who at the time feared the rise to supremacy of the Black boxers.

From author, Mike Glenn, "Lives and Battles of Famous Black Pugilists."
[...]
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