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"Springs Toledo's great book is a literate and literary gift to boxing fans. Whether it's his provocative assessment of Sonny Liston, his revivification of the unsung heroes of Murderers' Row, or his carefully-conceived stab at all-time rankings, every page is worth reading and re-reading. It is writing like this which sets boxing apart from other sports."~JIM LAMPLEY, IBHOF Class of 2015
"--Greatest boxing book ever written."~DOUGLAS CAVANAUGH, IBRO
"The Gods of War is one of the best books on the Sweet Science I have ever read. I love the book and if you are a boxing fan you will love it too." ~GORDON MARINO, boxing writer, Wall Street Journal, professional boxing trainer
"With The Gods of War, Springs Toledo joins the select group of real writers who understand boxing and elevate boxing to the height it deserves. ~ADAM BERLIN, author of The Number of Missing
"If you've enjoyed the likes of A.J. Liebling and Norman Mailer you will find a fragile beauty at times overwhelming in Toledo's work. He is a writer who's at his best looking backwards, and at his best there's no one better." ~SAM SHEPPARD, The Queensberry Rules
"I love this book. It's a work of world-class literature." ~BRUCE GELLERMAN, Senior Correspondent WBUR
"Every page is a gem unto itself." ~MIKE SILVER, The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science
"Springs Toledo pounds out an astute choreography that is as graceful as it is engaging, as imaginative as it is real. If you don't dance away shadowboxing, you probably weren't that into the sport to begin with." ~PAUL BLUMER, New England Review
"I loved The Gods of War. Don't miss this book -interesting, well-written, and the type of book you just can't put down once you've read the first page." ~HAROLD LEDERMAN, IBHOF Class of 2016
From the Inside Flap
~ The Fifth God of War
Sugar Ray Leonard's narrative about why he lost to Roberto Duran in their first fight is no less misleading than Duran's excuses for why he quit in the rematch. The truth behind Leonard's first professional loss is in this book; one of many gems in a series counting down the ten greatest fighters since 1920. Award-winning boxing writer Springs Toledo calls them "gods of war" and makes a compelling case for his conclusions. The greatest of them all, he writes, is neither Muhammad Ali nor the original Sugar Ray. If you're about to douse your stogie,shatter your tea cup, or drop this book, hold on, because his arguments will rattle your convictions.
The"Gods of War" series isn't all that readers will find in The Gods of War: Boxing Essays. Toledo's writing has been described as "warrior poetry" and this book is a showcase of what that means. It transcends factoids, dry text, and threadbare yarns and conjures up legendary fighters without pulling punches.
* Gaze at the tragic Sonny Liston's grave as he is pulled out from under the shadow of Ali and given an overdue gift of a birthday.
* Watch as heavyweight king Wladimir Klitchko is pitted against Jack Dempsey and found wanting.
* Stand in awe as Jewish fighters from first-century Palestine evolve into twentieth-century champions and show history what commitment is.
* Experience an insider's take on the deaths of four fighters and what they represent in a society losing its grip on masculinity, meaningfulness, and reality.
Boxing purists are in for a fresh look at an old love. Casual fans are in for a treat.Detractors will see for themselves what the allure is; and if their minds are open, they'll see boxing for what it has always been -a friend of the poor.
Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Wright, Norman Mailer, and of course, A.J. Liebling have made boxing writing the pound-for-pound best in sports. Springs Toledo just threw a brick through their window.
- Publisher : Tora Book Publishing (April 24, 2014)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 218 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0954392450
- ISBN-13 : 978-0954392451
- Item Weight : 14.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.51 x 0.63 x 8.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,744,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This is my second foray into the whirlpool of Mr. Toledo's dizzying prose. The guy is, simply put, a beast in a class of his own (at least among living boxing scribes). I started with his book "In the Cheap Seats," which I consider superior to this one, and then read backwards in-reverse chronological order to arrive at this, his first major work.
The essays that bookend the central piece are really peerless. After reading a couple of essays about Sonny Liston, I felt as if I'd read a couple of novels about "the Bear" (or the "Ugly Bear" as Muhammad Ali might call him). Liston is perhaps the most tragic figure in a sport littered with tragedies, and Toledo makes the most of the grist that was the mysterious life and death of "the champ that no one wanted" (as another book would have it). As with "Cheap Seats," the writing is top-notch, and Toledo's insight into the technical aspects of the sport of boxing is matched by a keen understanding of the history of Fistiana, as well as what its brutality reveals about class, race, and masculinity in America and worldwide.
My only quibble with this book is that Toledo is such a good historian that he fails to place the greats of the past in a wider context (as he did in "Cheap Seats"), succumbing to the old-timer's tendency to put the ghosts of the pasts on an unrealistically high pedestal. Giving Harry Greb pride of place as the greatest fighter of the modern era is one of the cardinal sins made by Toledo, a man who should know better, especially considering he is a man with his hand in the doings of a contemporary rankings organization. To be blunt, you just don't rank a guy at the top of a list who has little to no known extant footage of him fighting. Some say Ray Robinson wasn't filmed enough in his prime, but he was at least filmed enough for one to make a credible case that he was the greatest of all time. The same can't be said for Harry Greb, no matter what your grandpa tells you.
I've showed Toledo's list (condensed from ten separate essays in the book) to fellow hardcore heads, and none of them were all that impressed. A few were pissed enough for me to believe Toledo could get bounced from a bar or two if he were to plead the case he pleads in this book, in any watering hole outside of his native Boston.
That said, the writing is so good that what would have been a deal-breaker in almost any other instance is downgraded to a minor quibble. Recommended.
The Gods of War yields a perspective that is both backward looking and fresh. It is refreshing to read a historian willing to question the universally held belief that boxing begins and ends with the recently departed Muhammad Ali. With no lost respect to the self proclaimed "greatest", Toledo gets it right as he ranks Ali outside the top ten Gods of War.
He is also willing to look past great fighters records who hung on too long. Many of the truly great ones fought into their late 30's or 40's when their reflexes had deserted them.
His is a welcome voice in the recording of boxing history. His drawing of the contrast between the boxing game of the early 20th century, and to what it has devolved to now, is both vivid and accurate.
This is the first I have read of Mr. Toledo. It will not be the last.
Top reviews from other countries
If you have taken it for granted that Sugar Ray Robinson was the GOAT then this is for you. This book offers a different opinion which is well written and researched.
In my opinion this writer is up there with AJ Liebling and Hugh Mcllvanney for boxing prose.
As good a boxing book as i have ever read and would have given it 6 stars if i could.