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Tales from the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics Paperback – May 5, 2010
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About the Author
Lee Groves is a longtime boxing fan who has been fortunate enough to turn his passion into his profession. The winner of two Boxing Writers Association of America awards, Groves wrote feature articles for Ring and KO magazines during the late 1980s and early 1990s and for MaxBoxing.com from 2005-2010. He has one of the largest private boxing video collections on earth, is an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame and is a member of ratings panels for Yahoo Sports and Ring Magazine. Groves recently joined the staff of BoxingScene.com and works as a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. He currently lives in his hometown of Friendly, W.Va.
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A very dense book. Read two fights at a time, and then come the next day. You will return to this fine book again and again.
"Gonzalez ... enjoyed huge physical advantages over Letterlough - four inches in height and eleven inches in reach. To win, Gonzalez needed to suppress his natural tendency to brawl and (instead) operate behind the jab while trying to catch Letterlough coming in with uppercuts. Meanwhile, Letterlough had to find a way inside for two reasons - to establish proper range for his bombs and to smother Gonzalez's long-armed punches ... Letterlough marched forward as the opening bell rang, moving his torso side to side to slip past Gonzalez's jab while Gonzalez took small steps to establish proper punching range ... Mindful of Letterlough's well-honed recuperative powers, Gonzalez fought with some caution and Letterlough validated Gonzalez's prudence by winging powerful, but inaccurate blows ... Ironically, by getting hurt early,Letterlough was able to draw Gonzalez into the type of inside war in which he excelled ... Gonzalez hurt Letterlough with asizzling hook, two overhand rights and a left uppercut. The follow-through on a home-run overhand right sent Gonzalez off-balance, and Letterlough smartly parked himself at extremely close range to smother Gonzalez's follow ups ... Letterlough ... (landed) his money punch - a crunching counter left hook - that sent Gonzalez face first onto the lower rope. This time Gonzalez took the full eight (count), but his pride commanded him to fight back and his rally convinced Letterlough - an expert in knockout situations - that Gonzalez needed more tenderizing before serving up the finisher ... Gonzalez sunk a short hook to the liver that left Letterlough doubled over and wincing in pain. Gonzalez climbed all over Letterlough, who opted to keep his hands high and wait out the storm instead of clinching. After absorbiing another liver hook, Letterlough rode out the round by slowly backing away with arms down and a smile on his face to conceal the waves of searing pain that racked his body ... Boom! Suddenly, Gonzalez was spread-eagled on the canvas, his vacant eyes staring up into the ring lights. He briefly lifted his head off the canvas but put it downagain. At that point, the fight seemed over, as most fighters who act this way often resign themselves to defeat ... Gonzalez ... hauled himself up by nine. As he watched the fallen Gonzalez from the neutral corner, Letterlough was determined to make his rival pay the price fro not taking the easy way out ... Gonzalez, feeling confident he had a big lead on the scorecards, started the final round at long range. But like two magnets they shortly returned to the inside where they pushed, pulled, grappled, wrestled and threw short but not especially sharp blows. Given the frenetic pace, their weariness was perfectly justified."
See what I mean? As someone who has seen many (most?) of these 100 classics and, in fact, has more than a few of them on dvd or videotape, I can say very confidently that Groves's descriptions of the action are VERY accurate and that he is able to get into the fighters' heads and read their minds as few TV blow-by-blow boxing announcers can. Another great thing is that Groves provides a theme, "moral", etc in the intro of each fight, which gives his fight reviews a slightly different dimension than "standard" or "typical" fight reviews.
If you became a boxing fan in the '70s,'80s, or '90s this book will remind you why you did and if you became a fan of the "Sweet Science" later or are just a casual fan, this book will demonstrate that fighters of earlier generations weren't the indolent, poorly conditioned, risk-averse Nancy-boys of today. And, at just 4 cents a page or 30 cents per bout, this book is a steal (especially since Groves provides each bout's punch counts - this point cannot be stressed enuf), so buy it.
Incidentally, here are some suggestions for a second volume of Closet Classics (keeping in mind the requirement for being an underrated &/or neglected classic): Matthew Saad Muhammad-Marvin "Pops" Johnson II, Saad Muhammad-Yaqui Lopez II, Wilfredo Gomez-Lupe Pintor, Steve Cruz-Barry McGuigan (if you purchase this bout, make sure you get the version with the ABC feed/commentators - the commentator for the Irish broadcast doesn't have a clue as to why McGuigan isn't his usual self), Evander Holyfield-Dwight Muhammad Qawi I, Raul Perez-Lucio Lopez (Mutt and Jeff go to war!), Simon Brown-Tyrone Trice I, Frank "The Animal" Fletcher-James "Hard Rock" Green, Julian Jackson-Terry Norris, Mike McCallum-Donald Curry, Bobby Chacon-Rafael "Bazooka" Limon IV, Chacon-Cornelius Boza Edwards II, Hasim Rahman-Corrie Sanders, Myung Woo Yuh-Mario DeMarco, Matthew Hilton-Buster Drayton, (these ones are a bit older:) George Chuvalo-Mike DeJohn (talk about your "hometown referee", sheesh), Ezzard Charles-Lloyd Marshall II, Gene Fullmer-Benny "Kid" Paret (as it would turn out, Fullmer "ate the meal", but Emile Griffith would "pick up the check"), and Carmen Basilio-Tony DeMarco I & II (epic wars between two converted southpaws).
The book has ten chapters that are broken down into titles like Little Big Men, Undercard Treasures, Sudden and Violent Endings, and so forth. Each chapter goes over 10 fights; so 100 fights are analyzed.
It's the type of book that you read in pieces because there is so much detail in each chapter.
Groves begins each fight analysis by setting up the fight; for example, going over a personal rivalry or a specific setting. Then the fight is described in great detail, and Groves ends his analysis with an epilogue about the direction each fighter took from that point on.
One the best parts is reading about a hidden gem of a fight, and then watching it for the first time on YouTube. I might be a big fight fan, but I didn't realize how many great fights I've never seen.
I highly recommend this book, and I believe any true fight fan will not be disappointed in this investment in boxing history.
A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics
Having ignited a boxing odyssey directly from the dank confines of his basement, it's no wonder that Lee Groves's new book "Tales from the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics," is defined by a vintage feel, like finding a gem in a forgotten record store. When the 720-page boxing tome hit stores last summer, it was refreshing to know that he penned a boxing book that properly captured his inexorable passion while still coating it with an old-school sensibility.
A native of Friendly, West Virginia, Groves has managed to do what some fans only talk about: cross over from boxing fanatic to respected journalist. Whether he is exalting Hilario Zapata's defensive prowess in "Little Big Men," marveling over Julian Jackson's one-punch power in "Sudden and Violent Endings," or evoking the father-son bond of Ray and Lenny Mancini in the aptly titled "Shootouts," Groves creates a comfortable rapport with the reader.
"When Mancini spotted (his mother and father), he was no longer the rough, tough champion but a proud son who wanted nothing more than to share his triumph with the man who served as his inspiration and the woman who gave him unconditional love and support," Groves writes.
Although Groves chronicles the phenoms like Mancini, he also illuminates the plight of those forgotten fighters in"Undercard Treasures." Groves's meticulous research and analysis complement his expert boxing acumen. His love affair with the sport was kindled with the 1974 Roberto Duran vs. Esteban DeJesus rematch. Since then, he has chartered a boxing journey derived from a collection of nearly 3,200 DVDs
"The intensely human drama that one feels when two well-matched fighters swap leather inside a confined space," Groves said. "There are few venues in life where one can see the core of a person. How does he react in a crisis? Can he execute adjustments in mid-fight? How tough is he? How devoted to his craft is he? Boxing is the ultimate meritocracy, for the best-conditioned and most skilled fighters usually prevail but enough upsets occur to keep everything interesting."
While organizing his sensational fight collection and setting a precedent as a boxing historian, Groves has found his way into two arenas. He'll respect the fighters, cherish the fights, especially the dig-em-out-of-the-crates battles, but he will also write eloquently about each one of them. In fact, if styles make fights, Groves is a pure tactician. Reading his compilation of fights is pure bliss for any boxing fan, and once the vault opens to page one, it's nearly impossible to put down.
However, it's not just about passion, but also timing. Boxing has changed dramatically since the 70s and 80s when Groves went headfirst into the sport. Ironically, he has compiled a book when the sport needs it (and his insight) most. With the exception of a Hall of Fame ceremony or a memorabilia appearance, there is no tangible link to that glorious period, and that's one reason why this compilation is necessary. Groves reminds us that there is hope to see boxing return to its pinnacle.
Until that time, we can turn to the "Vault" for reference.