- Paperback: 294 pages
- Publisher: McFarland; 1st Edition edition (October 17, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0786439947
- ISBN-13: 978-0786439942
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,897,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Joe Gans: A Biography of the First African American World Boxing Champion 1st Edition Edition
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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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His is a life deserving a top-flight biography. Unfortunately, this just ain't it. The authors don't exactly throw chronologically to the wind, but there is something flawed and scattershot about their approach, so that the details of Gans' life (his fights, his ownership of a hotel, his scientific approach to boxing) aren't integrated into a seamless whole, but are treated separately. The best historians are also great storytellers, who can make these long-dead characters breathe again. Reading this book, I always felt I was at a remove or two from Gans. I get closer to the mythic character by watching the old Edison film clips on YouTube than I did reading this bio.
Compounding the problem is that the authors, contra their assertions and bona fides, just don't seem to know much about boxing. They claim (falsely) that the "hands-low" style is an artifact of the past, and that the high-guard is something of more recent vintage. Someone might want to get Aycock and Co. some Roy Jones, Joe Calzaghe, and Naseem Hamed footage, stat.
The authors' multiple jabs at Nat Fleischer (creator of "Ring Magazine") also become wearing over time. It reminds me of college students who fault Abraham Lincoln for enjoying minstrel shows, as if people of prior centuries deserve to be judged by the lights of our own (supposedly benighted) times. Fleischer (like Lincoln) was a creature of his times, and compared to many of his contemporaries (who would have very much like to see Gans lynched for administering beatings to white men), Nat acquitted himself well in his works like "Black Dynamite" about the heroic exploits of black fighters.
Also, I understand that the authors want to "talk up" their subject, but their less-than-scientific way of ranking Gans as the all-time-greatest, above Ali, Willy Pep, etc. (consisting of a handful of quotes and dodgy, still-disputed numbers) doesn't bear closer scrutiny. The boxing scribe Thomas Hauser has shown in the past how to compare fighters from different periods. Aycock and Co. have shown how not to do it.
I'm looking forward to reading "A Champion's Last Fight" to see if it is a superior book about the "Old Master." Still, I give this one a tepid recommendation for those coming to the subject cold, but I bet someone like Ken Burns could probably do better in a ninety-minute doc on PBS if the spirit so moved him.