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The Fight Paperback – September 30, 1997

4.2 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

There are sporting events that transcend the world of sports, and the 1974 heavyweight title fight in which Muhammad Ali regained his crown by improbably kayoing George Foreman in the middle of the African night was certainly one of them. Metaphorically, it was a writer's dream: two imposing black warriors, one all grace, the other brute force, one the iconoclast, the other the blind patriot, battling each other. Fatefully, the appropriate writer threw his pen into the ring. Norman Mailer's masterful account goes far beyond the ropes to capture the primal ethos of the sport, the larger social canvas this particular fight was drawn on, and the remarkable cast of personalities--not the least of which is Mailer himself--who converged to make this "Rumble in the Jungle" a landmark in sports history and a clear knockout in Mailer's journalistic portfolio.

From Library Journal

The "fight" is the 1975 world heavyweight championship bout in Zaire between then reigning king of the ring Muhammad Ali and up-and-coming George Foreman. Mailer relays the events of the actual fight and includes the observations of George Plimpton, Hunter S. Thompson, and others.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (September 30, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375700382
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375700385
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,276,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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If you were fascinated by Leon Gast's Oscar-winning 1996 documentary "When We Were Kings," do what I did: go out and buy Mailer's 'The Fight' immediately. More than just covering the fight itself, Mailer takes in and reports the entire crazy scene in Kinshasa, Zaire, circa 1975. It must be noted that this book is as much about Norman Mailer (referring to himself throughout the book in the third-person) as it is about Muhammad Ali, but this results in some great reporting like in the one memorable chapter where Mailer decides he's going to run in the early dawn with Ali.
The best parts of the book deal not with Ali but in the richly drawn portraits of the other important players. Ali's mystical cornerman Drew 'Bundini' Brown is a revelation, and you won't find a better take on Don King anywhere, despite the fact that this prose is now 25 years old. The real value of this work is that is captures the essence of Ali and Foreman circa 1975, and - like 'We Were Kings' - subconsciously directs your brain to compare these 'Kings' to the men they have become. The natural tendency is to recognize the true extent of what we have been deprived of by Ali's descent into the grips of Parkinson's, but there's a corresponding shock when reading about Foreman: to realize how this man totally reconstructed his personality to turn himself into a multi-media star. You read Mailer's book and say: No way. But George pulled it off.
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Format: Paperback
I read "The Fight" some years ago and really enjoyed it for it combined a couple of elements for me. First, I am a big Norman Mailer fan which doesn't mean I have enjoyed everything he has written--am of course very aware of his big ego. Second, I am a major sports fan and have tuned in on the classic boxing matches of my era. Mailer knows his sports, particularly boxing I think, and is great at describing the sporting event in the context of everything else that is occurring at the time.

Another reviewer mentioned the contexts of Mobutu/Zaire and Ali's place in sports, the civil rights movement, and the 60's and 70's--the Ali history is of course well known, and Mailer, being a friend of the champ, covers all of this well, in his unique insightful literary style. I really enjoyed Mailer's description of his morning jog with Ali and his strange and strained interaction with Ali's eccentric assistant trainer/cornerman Drew Bundini Brown.

Mailer's description of the bout itself was amazing, riveting! To add my context, before this bout, Foreman was more feared than any fighter I remember and that includes Sonny Liston and Mike Tyson. Foreman was so big, powerful, and quietly menacing, that people in 1974 literally feared for Ali's life. Not to worry--he figured Foreman out just like he did Liston a decade earlier when he first won the heavyweight championship. Nobody who has seen
Ali's "rope-a-dope" in the bout would ever forget it. I feel Mailer does more justice to this than any other writer could.
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Format: Paperback
Norman Mailer's "The Fight" is quite simply one of the best boxing books I have ever read. Reading Mailer the novelist writing about boxing gives you a certain novelty you will not experience in other books on sport. Mailer's keen observation comes shining through: on life in Zaire, Mobutu's rule, George Foreman and of course Muhammad Ali.

I was surprised to see that Mailer has such a keen eye on the sport. His description of the fight is like no other you will ever read or see. The result is something like a passage jointly written by Bill Cayton and Alistair MacLean. Mailer with his minute observation adds a great touch of drama to the proceedings instead of presenting only a dry technical analysis of the fight. If you want the latter, you might as well watch Max Kellerman on ESPN. Mailer on the other hand gives you a lively picture, making you feel like you were there on that dark, sultry Kinshasa night, part of the radiant crowd chanting "Ali, mumbaye".

Mailer displays an ardent love for the sport and admiration for Muhammad Ali. Many insights are given into Ali's personality. Particularly interesting are the insights into the lives of Ali's camp members: Angelo Dundee, the workaholic trainer who never gave away an inch; Lou Bundini, the colorful sidekick, and Herbert Muhammad, the manager who always meant business. I have read a lot on Ali but have not been able to find anything special on his troupe, apart from this book by Mailer.

If you are a serious boxing and Ali fan, you just have to read this book. If you are not and are just interested in understanding the fascination about Muhammad Ali, this is something that will do a lot to help you.
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Norman Mailer was one of the best writers to come out of the Twentieth Century. He was also one of those writers in the Hemingway mold, who sought to immerse himself in the subject matter about which he wrote. No stranger to the sweet science (he once did a three-round boxing match on the Dick Cavet Show with ex-light-heavyweight champ, Jose Torres), Mailer was sent to cover the Rumble in the Jungle in Africa in 1974 when Muhammad Ali became the second man to regain the heavyweight title when he took it away from George Foreman. Mailer had a way with imagery and metaphor, and his writing is engaging. His colossal ego is also in evidence in this piece. He refers to himself in the third person throughout. Interestingly enough, there is more written about the events leading up to the big fight than of the actual contest itself. Despite Mailer's friendship and obvious idolization of Ali, the author does give us a few glances of Ali's cruel nature. Foreman, who later became the oldest man ever to regain the heavyweight title, is not described in much detail, and is cast as a bit player in this piece. Ironically, Foreman's genial personality wouldn't become evident until his comeback about ten years after his original reign as heavyweight champion. The Fight focuses primarily on Ali, who was a larger-than-life icon during the 1970's. It's too bad Mailer didn't try to gain more insight into Foreman's nature, but perhaps that wasn't an option at the time, since Norman was clearly a member of Ali's camp. Originally written as a two-part article for Playboy magazine, Mailer later expanded the article into this book. It's an interesting memoir and gives the reader a sense of being caught up in the big event.
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