Recommended Books on Boxing: The Best List of the Best Boxing Books of All-Time
There are more books on boxing out there than anybody could ever tally up or try to make sense of. Even so, there are many fantastic books of all kinds on the sport, ranging from historical books and biographies to novels, collections of essays, and more. This page isn’t here to try to list every boxing book ever made, instead it’s here to point out some of the best boxing books ever.
If you’re looking to read up on the sport for any reason, then this is the best place to begin your journey. All of the selections here come highly recommended, and you can browse the categories below for something that matches your interests.
Boxiana is where it all began really in terms of detailed storytelling, record keeping, analysis and conjecture regarding boxing. Egan writes about the boxing legends of his time, the likes of Daniel Mendoza, Tom Cribb and everyone else in between. As fighters fought backed by local nobles and citizens traveled for days to attend the anticipated scraps of the time. The sport has changed much from these early times, but what the men were fighting for, why the crowd loved it, and so forth, are largely the same.
Egan has a unique style that berthed the boxing writings of A.J. Liebling in many ways, who often quoted and referenced Egan throughout his own work. If you want to take an exciting and detailed journey into boxing in its semi-legal, bare-knuckle days in England, then Egan’s Boxiana is must-read material.
This is as thorough a history of the sport of boxing as you’re ever going to find, but it’s different than many other books on boxing. It takes an intellectual approach to tracing the sport back through its earliest lineages. Along the way, the book explains not just what was happening with the sport of boxing, but why it was happening, who it was happening to, and what it all meant.
It’s filled with depictions of the sport in literature and art, interpretations of the sport and who it was perceived at the time, and more. An intriguing, unique and deep examination of boxing.
Gorn examines the bare-knuckle roots of the sport in the United States. The bare-knuckle game came from England, but eventually America was home to its finest and largest practitioners, including none other than John L. Sullivan. Learn about these early champions and their lengthy brawls, the scene surrounding the game of boxing at the time, and much more.
The book has been updated in a new revised edition to keep it a bit more current while staying true to its roots. An excellent historical boxing book to add into your collection, filling the gap after, say, Pierce Egan, and before A.J. Liebling.
Boxing fans need no introduction to the likes of Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take some time to go back and appreciate those great contemporaries once again. Between the four men, there were nine encounters, all of them heavy on meaning to the sport, and most of them great battles in and of themselves.
Kimball, who attended each bout, repaints the picture for every encounter in terms of its importance and meaning, provides detailed blow-by-blows of the meetings, and pairs it all with interviews with the fighters, trainers and other individuals involved. One of the best boxing books covering what many consider to be the last great era in the sport.
The above book captured the glory of the four great contemporaries of the 1980s. This book, another of the best books on boxing out there right now, goes into much more detail about one particular encounter, Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Marvelous Marvin Hagler from 1987. It also paints the encounter not merely as a boxing match, but as a series of somewhat conman-inspired ploys by Leonard to help him “steal” the bout from Hagler.
Hagler, of course, lost the bout via disputed decision and retired afterward, never to step into the ring again. The book takes an amazingly intricate approach at describing the buildup to the encounter, how the fight was put together, and all of the anticipation of the bout, along with the extremely different back stories and motivations of each man. A must read for Leonard and Hagler fans alike.
What Marantz did with Hagler vs. Leonard, Layden does here with Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas. When Tyson fought Douglas, he wasn’t just the heavyweight champion, he was the Baddest Man on the Planet. He won fights just by looking at his opponents, and he was a massive favorite to defend his championship yet again in Tokyo.
Of course, Douglas pulled off one of the biggest upsets in boxing history on that night. The book examines the buildup and aura surrounding the bout, the actual encounter itself, and more. But then it keeps on going, examining the sagas of each man’s life since their fateful encounter.
It’s no secret to most fans that boxing and the mafia have a long, intertwined history with one another. Mitchell examines the pairing during the “golden age” of boxing around the 1940s and 1950s. The mob had influence not only with who won fights and what they were for, but also who got to fight in the big encounters, which individuals got a piece of the action and much more.
The book pays particular attention to Frankie Carbo, the mob boss who essentially ruled boxing out of Madison Square Garden, which was what essentially ruled the entire sport. Facts are supported by interviews from all types of people in the fight game, although many have fond recollections of the mob ruled fight game.
Few boxing books have taken the time to do in-depth on the trainers, the hard working men who typically have dedicated their lives to boxing and to molding champions. This is surprising, considering that in other sports, coaches are often profiled. But trainers in boxing are more behind the scenes.
Fried does justice to some of the biggest and most well known trainers of previous generations. The list includes Angelo Dundee, Whitey Bimstein, Ray Arcel, and a host of others. The book includes plenty of photographs, a special look at the days when Stillman’s Gym was a singular hotbed of boxing action, and much more.
This book examines the rematch between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling. It wasn’t just good vs. evil, or even black vs. white, it was American and democracy against Hitler and the Nazis. Of course, this characterization of Schmeling wasn’t just to him, who never was on board with that ideal, and in fact risked himself to help save Jews in Germany.
Still, there was much at stake when these two met for the second time, and whether or not either liked the role he was given, they did in fact represent much more than themselves. That background often masks the greatness of each fighter, and their differing styles and tactics. A full and thorough examination of the fight, the time, its meaning and more.
If a movie was created based on this tale, most would think it was too outlandish to be true. But these were the times, and Jack Dempsey’s promoter Doc Kearns rode on into Shelby, Montana to host a fight with the champion there. A massive, new stadium was built. Tons of money and publicity were promised.
And then, the town ended up suffocating in bankruptcy after an enormous failure of an operation from beginning to end. You have to read it to believe it, and you’ll get the full picture here. The real story of Dempsey vs. Gibbons has little to do with the in-ring battle, and all to do with the absurdities of the promotion and buildup.
by Allen Bodner
Today, a Jewish boxer making the world stage in the sport is a rare occurrence, and usually generates a fair amount of press because of its rarity. However, there was a time when many of the best fighters in the world, as well as those plying their trades in the lower ranks and the clubs, were Jewish. From Benny Leonard to Barney Ross, Abe Attell and a host of others, boxing was rich with high quality Jewish fighters.
This boxing book by Allen Bodner takes a look at the time periods when Jewish fighters thrived, and dives into the details of each fighter’s unique story. The book is filled with extensive interviews and historical accounts from surviving fighters of the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s and others involved in their careers.
You haven’t read anything on boxing until you’ve read a boxing book by A.J. Liebling. The Sweet Science is a collection of Liebling’s essays about the sport written during his time with the New Yorker magazine. The book covers the second half of the 1940s through the 1950s, and touches on fighters like Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson and many more.
Liebling doesn’t just write about a fighter, he writes about an event, the nitty-gritty of the sport and its training, the joys and tribulations of attending fights in person, and much more. He has an unmistakable quality for describing the details of any given situation to make you not only feel like you were there, but to really wish you were, and to wish you were there with him to guide you on your journey. For my money, it’s not just one of the best boxing books ever, it is the best book on boxing, hands down.
Liebling is back at it again with a Neutral Corner, This collection features over a dozen original essays by Liebling, as he travels to the biggest fights, gets in the camps of the fighters, takes in the circus-like affairs of the events, and much more. These essays cover Liebling’s work from the early 1950s through the early 1960s, shortly before his death.
Liebling is particularly fascinated by the likes of Floyd Patterson, as well as a youngster known as Cassius Clay, while, as usual, he gets into the trenches of the sport in the gyms with all of the usual characters. There’s nothing like Liebling, and anything written by him on the sport automatically ascends to the top of the best boxing books for sale, period.
Like Liebling, Joyce Carol Oates is a writer with a much wider range of experience and talent, but with a special focus and attention paid to the sport of boxing. Oates offers a collection of essays presenting the various levels of good and bad within boxing, the tragic heroes who ply their trade in the ring, the people who take advantage them, the humanistic side of the contest, entertainment value, the history of the sport, and much more.
It’s an intelligent and thoughtful look at the sport of boxing. It’s a book on boxing, to be sure, but it’s about humans and human nature and our own experiences with boxing, how we do relate to the sport, why it is that way, and more.
W.C. Heinz was one of the greatest sportswriters in history, and the Book of Boxing is a collection of stories put together by Heinz and Nathan Ward, covering boxing in literature across many different eras and generations.
It’s a grouping of essays about boxing crossing many borders, it includes both fiction stories, non-fiction essays, poetry, analysis and commentary, and much more, and it’s actually an updated version of the original, bringing readers up to current times. It’s a complete overview of the sport, the love to the torment, the truth to the stories, from many different writers and perspectives. An engaging selection of great boxing writing.
Jeff Silverman – editor; multiple authors
This is another fantastic collection of boxing stories put together from numerous different authors, time periods and styles. You’ll find long, magazine style essays, shorter columns, chapters from books, and much more, covering varied aspects of the fight game. Deaths in the ring, small town brawls filled with unique characters, the highs and lows of boxing and on down the line.
Each author brings his unique touch to the collection, enlivening boxing and bringing you into the scene. Includes stories from a host of well known boxing writers, including everyone from Damon Runyan to George Plimpton to A.J. Liebling to Hugh McIlvanney and dozens of others.
Thomas Hauser has written many, many great boxing books. This is placed here as an example of several of his compilation books, which feature a collection of his boxing essays and articles over a particular period of time. This book covers the early 2000’s mostly.
You’ll find that Hauser definitely has certain “favored” topics or subjects, and he’ll keep on touching back on those in multiple essays and pieces. So you’ll hear a lot about HBO, Lou DiBella and other topics de jour in this collection, with other essays on Lewis/Tyson, Arturo Gatti, Bernard Hopkins, Gerry Cooney, Hasim Rahman and much more.
Boxing, even more so than many other sports, lends itself to historical discussion and comparison, best-of lists, and so forth. Put together by Bert Sugar and Teddy Atlas, this is a huge collection of many of those lists. From the best knockouts to the best rivalries to the best fights and much more.
The book also features contributions from many famous fighters, including Muhammad Ali, Oscar De La Hoya and others. Each list carries an explanation, and a list with each entry further examined. A fun read for any boxing fan looking to fill in his knowledge for all of those best of/greatest of all time/ debates and discussions.
Arthur Mercante is one of the most well known and highly regarded boxing referees of all-time. He was the third man in the ring for many of boxing’s best battles over a period of decades. This book takes you into the ring with Mercante for many of his most notable bouts.
You’ll get his unique and personal perspective on these fights, how it played out, what was really going on, and more, as well as a litany of other details that only he would be able to know and divulge. You’ll also get more of a glimpse at Mercante himself, including his background and career, and how he ended up where he did. A unique and enjoyable entry, and definitely one of the best boxing books to add to your collection.
McIlvanney is one of the best modern boxing writers that fans and enthusiasts have had the pleasure of reading. His book on boxing is a collection of essays and articles penned from his time covering fights. Originally published in 1983, it was republished in 2001 with extra stories and essays from the two decades over that time.
So you’ll see extensive reports and unique, eloquent coverage of fights such as Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman, all the way up through the thrilling 1980s, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Roy Jones and many more. The sadness and tragedies of boxing are also presented, and McIlvanney has an unmatched ability to make you feel connected and feel emotionally for the individuals involved in the game.
Dark Trade is based on over five years of firsthand exposure, interviews and research made by the author with individual fighters in the game from the early to mid 1990s.
He gets close with top level fighters from both the U.S. and U.K., including Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, James Toney, Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, Prince Naseem Hamed and others, and explores their exploits in the rings, struggles outside of it, what motivates them, and even what they’re scared of. Boxing, of course, is a brutal sport, and the book explores what makes these legendary fighters pursue it, and the heart of violence and racism in society.
Instead of offering detailed summaries and descriptions for the best boxing books in the biographies section, here we’ll just give a list of some of the best and most interesting boxing biographies and you can find the fighters or personalities you’re most interested in.
- Tunney: Boxing’s Brainest Champ and his Upset of the Great Jack Dempsey by Jack Cavanaugh – Tunney was overlooked in his own time for the more intoxicating power of Jack Dempsey, but Tunney, intellectual out of the ring, holds two wins over Dempsey in the ring.
- Barney Ross: The Life of a Jewish Fighter by Douglas Century – Ross is one of the best Jewish fighters of all-time, starting from the humble beginnings of fighting to make ends meet for his family after the death of his father. A fantastic career, including his trilogy with Jimmy McLarnin, a stint fighting in WWII, drug addiction, balancing faith and the rest of his lifestyle, and more were the story of Ross’s life.
- The Fearless Harry Greb: Biography of a Tragic Hero of Boxing by Bill Paxton – Greb is one of the greatest fighters of all-time, although not everyone knows his story. Greb continually stepped in the ring, over 300 times, and during the latter half of his career did so while being fully blind in one eye. “The Pittsburgh Windmill” died way too young after a fast lifestyle during and in-between fights.
- Cinderella Man: James J. Braddock, Max Baer and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History by Jeremy Schaap – By now, most are familiar with the tale of Braddock thanks to the movie. The book is even better, diving deeper into Braddock’s circumstances, as well as those of Max Baer.
- Unforgivable Blackness – The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson by Geoffrey C. Ward – Turned into a PBS documentary special, this book takes a look at the first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson. King of the ring, largely despised out of it by much of the population because of his race, his lifestyle and his actions. A truly can’t-miss read that all boxing fans have to look at, one of the best boxing books and biographies out there as it delves far past boxing into society.
- A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring 20s by Roger Khan – Dempsey was a larger than life figure during his time, a star unlike any boxer today in this country could realize or equate to. This biography flashes back and forward from different points of Dempsey’s life, his formative years, his life post-boxing, and of course, his in-ring greatness, his hard-living ways, the scene of the 1920s during his prime, and more. Another great Jack Dempsey biography is Jack Dempsey: The Manassa Mauler by Randy Roberts.
- Sam Langford: Boxing’s Greatest Uncrowned Champion by Clay Moyle – Langford is one of the best fighters of all-time, although no list of boxing champions would show you that. Langford was frozen out of the title scene, even by other black fighters, but had an amazing career nonetheless. Terribly under-appreciated and never got the chance to shine on the brightest stage.
- Rocky Marciano – The Rock of His Times by Russell Sullivan – Marciano is legendary for retiring as the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world. He has his own fair share of struggles outside of the boxing arena, and of course, died tragically in a plane crash at a still young age.
- Joe Louis: Hard Times Man by Randy Roberts – This is a rich and detailed portrait of Louis, one of the best fighters of all-time. As he amassed 25 title defenses and became the hope and dreams of all African Americans, he carefully maintained his image and worked hard to live up to expectations. Had a unique standing amongst both black and white Americans, given the times, that nobody had really achieved to that point. Of course, this is just one of many very good boxing books on Joe Louis.
- Joe Gans: A Biography of the First African American Boxing World Champion by Colleen Aycock – Few people know the story of Joe Fans, a fantastic lightweight fighter, and the first African American boxing champion. Jack Johnson reigned as the first black heavyweight champion, but Gans came first.
- John L. Sullivan and his America by Michael T. Isenberg – The story of champions in a legitimate sport of boxing in America begins with John L. Sullivan. Great fighter, friend of Roosevelt, hard-drinker and more, Sullivan begins the lineage of boxing champions. Adam Pollack, who has a series of biographies on the first heavyweight champions (see below) also has a great book on John L. Sullivan.
- In the Ring with James J. Jeffries by Adam J. Pollack – Jeffries was one of the sport’s first heavyweight champions. He’s remembered most for his role as comebacking white fighter taking on black champion Jack Johnson, but there’s much more to him than that of course. Incredible and in-depth details of his fights, his training and the boxing scene during his time.
- In the Ring with Bob Fitzsimmons by Adam J. Pollack – Fitzsimmons was one of the first multi-division greats in boxing, starting as a middleweight on his path towards becoming the heavyweight champion of the world, the third officially recognized titleholder in the evolving sport of boxing. Using first-hand accounts and reports, a vivid description of his bouts and his life is created here.
- Raging Bull: My Story by Jake La Motta – The movie is fantastic, and La Motta was immortalized further by Robert De Niro’s portrayal of him. But the book is even better, and it’s easily one of the best boxing books of all-time. No stone is left unturned in La Motta’s up and down, violent world, both professionally and personally.
- Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson by Wil Haygood – Considered by most as the best boxer of all-time, Sugar Ray Robinson was a star above all others. The book offers an in-depth portrayal of his childhood and upbringing, his amazing in the ring anthology, and his life as a social force that inspired the country. Another great book on the original Sugar Ray is just that, Sugar Ray by Robinson himself and co-author Dave Anderson.
- Sonny Liston: His Life, Strife and the Phantom Punch by Rob Steen – Liston demolished champion Floyd Patterson, twice, and the ferocious seeming man seemed unbeatable. Then he lost to Ali, and lost again, both occasions marred by controversy, particularly the ultra-quick ending in the second bout via the Phantom Punch. From his associations with the mob to the mysteries of the Ali bouts to his strange death, lots of questions to be answered surrounding Liston.
- The Ageless Warrior: The Life of Boxing Legend Archie Moore by Mike Fitzgerald – Moore had an epic boxing career that is literally unmatched by anyone in history. Spanning multiple generations of boxing greats, Moore fought them all, and conquered most of them, with a unique set of skills and smarts that kept him competitive for decades, and then led him to be a trainer following his own time in the ring.
- Floyd Patterson: A Boxer and a Gentleman by Alan H. Levy – Patterson was probably too kind and open to be a boxer. But his amazing skills allowed him to excel, even as he never tried to be a “bad man”. From great amateur to heavyweight champion to civil rights activist and more, Patterson deserves a strong placement amongst boxing historical figures.
- Two Ton: One Night, One Fight, Tony Galento vs. Joe Louis by Joseph Monninger – Two Ton Galento, so named because of his rather hefty and unashamed proportions, nearly became the heavyweight champion of the world, putting a real scare and a few hard hits into Joe Louis, knocking him down before losing. The only things bigger than his waist size were his punch and his personality, and all of it makes for a great read and another unique gem to add to your list of the best boxing books and biographies.
- Billy Conn – The Pittsburgh Kid by Paul Kennedy – Conn is an all-time great, and in this book you’ll find amazingly detailed accounts of all of his best and biggest fights. The light heavyweight champion with the charmed looks and gorgeous wife nearly won the day against Joe Louis before meeting his fate. Conn was all Pittsburgh all the way through, blue collar, tough and humble.
- The Onion Picker: Carmen Basilio and Boxing in the 1950s by Gary Youmans – When you think of boxers with toughness and real fighting spirit, Carmen Basilio is the definition. A look at Basilio, his upbringing, the boxing game at the time, his battles with Sugar Ray Robinson, and much more.
- Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter by James S. Hirsch – Many have seen the movie, but an even richer and more vivid account of Hurricane Carter and his tragic circumstances are given in the book. From tough middleweight contender to wrongly accused fall man who lost it all in a 20 year prison stint, Carter still came out on the other side a better man.
- Becoming Holyfield: A Fighter’s Journey by Evander Holyfield – The four-time heavyweight champion is the classic hard working, over-achiever who left in all in the ring. There was plenty of controversy and oddity along the way though, from Olympic disqualification to the ear-biting incident with Mike Tyson, to his familial struggles and much more. Ultimately, Holyfield is the kind of fighter you always want to root for.
- By George: The Autobiography of George Foreman by George Foreman – Fearsome heavyweight champion. Joyful seller of grills and spiritual leader. Much more in-between. Foreman has been through more and has a more unique tale than nearly any other person on the planet. An insightful, open and honest look at the entirety of his life, successes, failures and more.
- Larry Holmes: Against The Odds by Larry Holmes – Holmes was never one to hide his emotions or true feelings, although in this book they are flushed out and explored to a great degree. Always overshadowed by Muhammad Ali, set up in a racial battle against Gerry Cooney and more, his greatness as a fighter is often overlooked or bypassed, but he’s one of the best heavyweight champions of all-time and a complex character.
- Iron Mike: A Mike Tyson Reader by Daniel O’Connor and George Plimpton – Most of us know the broad strokes of Mike Tyson, his violent youth, his amazing heavyweight run, his prison stint, the ear biting, and on and on. But this book manages to go deeper and provide fresh insight, even if the last decade since it was written could be a new book all on its own. Of course, there are also many other boxing books about Mike Tyson.
- Smokin’ Joe: The Autobiography of Heavyweight Champion Joe Frazier by Joe Frazier – One of 13 children in his home, Frazier moved from the rural South to the big city, won Olympic gold, became heavyweight champion, and participated in one of the biggest fights in boxing history. He lost the trilogy to Ali, and the publicity battle which permanently scarred him, but to focus only on that is to miss the point with this boxing legend.
- PacMan Behind the Scenes with Manny Pacquiao by Gary Andrew Poole – Pacquiao’s career isn’t over, and his life story is far from written, with his political career just beginning. But his rise from the poorest of upbringings to worldwide fame and boxing legend is already an extremely fascinating, unmatched tale.
- Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran by Christian Giudice – Duran has one of the more unique and special careers in boxing of all-time, literally fighting professionally over 5 decades, and winning titles in 4 divisions. From his great lightweight run, his battles against legends like Leonard, Hearns and Hagler, and his much talked about life outside of the ring, Duran was hungry for it all.
- Atlas: From the Streets to the Ring – A Son’s Struggle to Become a Better Man by Teddy Atlas – Most know Atlas as the enthusiastic and knowledgeable host of Friday Night Fights, but it was a long road to get there. From high school drop out to a stint in prison, to learning under mentor Cus D’Amato, training Mike Tyson and always striving to be a better person and to help others along the way.
- Irish Thunder: The Hard Life and Times of Micky Ward by Bob Halloran – This book forms the foundation for “The Fighter”, the popular movie which was recently released. Micky Ward was a workmanlike fighter who happened to give us one of the best boxing trilogies of all-time. His never give in approach was forged from his hardscrabble background.
No collection of the best boxing books would be complete without a section on the G.O.A.T, Muhammad Ali. Here are the best books about Ali, including biographies and other unique looks, amongst a vast library of Ali literature that’s out there.
With dozens of Muhammad Ali biographies out there, King of the World remains the standard-bearer. If you’re going to start anywhere with your reading on Ali, then this is the place to do it. Remnick paints a vivid picture of Ali, focusing especially on his out of the ring lifestyle, choices, personality, and the meaning behind his actions.
Of course, this isn’t a complete biography taking you through his entire career and life. It’s the “Rise of an American Hero”, from the formative years, early professional career, religious tumult, and so forth. A can’t miss classic for readers of all interests and backgrounds, and an easy inclusion amongst the best boxing books.
Hauser’s book on Ali is less about his fights and in-ring performances, and more about his life outside of the ring. More specifically, it focuses on individual tales and stories provided through interviews with various figures in Ali’s life, including those who worked alongside him, fought against him, were involved in the boxing, sporting and entertainment scenes of the time, and much more.
Lots of intriguing anecdotes in here, and a good choice to add even more insight and knowledge about Ali and his life to your repertoire. Offers a full spectrum from laughing out loud funny, to tearing up sad, to fuming angry and everything else in between.
Who better to tell the tale of what Muhammad Ali, the fighter, was like than the people who faced him in the squared circle? From Ali’s very first opponent, Tunney Hunsaker, to his very last, the great Larry Holmes, there are 15 fighters who offer their own perspectives on getting in the ring with Muhammad Ali and what it all meant.
It’s more than just the way those fighters saw Ali though, it’s also a profile of each of those men, and their own journey before and after in facing Muhammad Ali. For some it becomes the definition of their careers, for better or worse, for some it was a great experience, for others it was souring.
This selection is not strictly a boxing book about Muhammad Ali. Penned by Angelo Dundee, the book covers all of his expereiences with the sport of boxing, from his earliest involvements, breaking onto the scene as a major fighter, and of course, working with Muhammad Ali throughout his entire professional career. Dundee talks about the best and worst of working with Ali, and even talks about the infamous time-killing move he made when Ali faced Henry Cooper.
Dundee then went on, of course, to work with the great Sugar Ray Leonard, and from these times we hear more about his famous “you’re blowing it kid!” speech when Leonard was facing Hearns, to the “No Mas” fight against Roberto Duran. The book covers all of Dundee’s fight life, but the bulk of it, and the bulk of most fan’s interest, will lie with the Ali and Leonard days, and so it gets included here.
Kram offers here a sort of dual biography for both Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, centered on their third and final fight, the Thrila in Manila. The book begins with each man in the present, dealing with the consequences of that bout and their careers in their own, different ways. It then reaches far back through each man’s gravitational journey towards one another, and the brutal, climactic third fight with changed each man forever.
It wasn’t just the physical damage they did to one another, it was the emotional baggage, the weight of an entire society, the scorn between each of them, the way the public viewed and treated them, and so forth. As Ali says, they went to Manila “as champions and [came back] as old men.”
This books chronicles not only the career of Muhammad Ali, but also the battles, timeline and other great fighters from the greatest heavyweight champion. The reason Muhammad Ali is so great, after all, is that he reigned supreme amongst an amazingly deep and talented division, including the likes of Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Sonny Liston, and strings of others like Earnie Shavers and Ken Norton.
This book recounts the entire era through a series of essays and articles penned at different times. You’ll find in-depth reports of specific fights and encounters, as well as pieces on everything from the death of Liston to Foreman’s meteoric rise, meteoric fall, and his rise once again.
Ali Rap is a really fun and unique Muhammad Ali book. It’s focused on all of his famous quotes, his poetry, his sayings, and more. So it’s less of something that you’ll sit down and read, and more of a great coffee table book or conversation piece.
All of Ali’s famous quotes and sayings are in here, and the small book is filled with great photos of Ali and more. For any fan of Ali looking to add to his or her collection, Ali Rap makes for a great choice, and it’s very different from everything else that’s out there. Pull it out from time to time to remind yourself about Ali, have a chuckle, or for some quick enjoyment.
“The Fight” refers to the Rumble in the Jungle, the heavyweight title clash between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. Of course we all know the results, Ali rope-a-doped and ended with a knockout victory, but he went into the fight with the world expecting him to be demolished.
Mailer offers his own insight and accounts of the fight, the build up to the fight, the circumstances, and more. He also includes observations from other noted authors and boxing aficionados like George Plimpton and Hunter S. Thompson. Mailer’s only foray into the Sweet Science is a memorable one and allows readers to enjoy his own unique style.
The Fight of the Century needs no introduction, Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier was more than just a sporting event, it was a watershed moment in the history of our society and culture. Arkush examines everything surrounding the bout, including the major players behind the scenes, the details of how the fight was put together and broadcast, and much more.
Of course, it has plenty on the fight itself, the fighters, the significance of the encounter, and more. The book manages to put together an intriguing story filled with lots of new information, a hard feat considering how well known and well covered this fight has been over the decades.
Just in case you needed more Muhammad Ali Books:
- Muhammad Ali: the Birth of a Legend, Miami 1961-1964 – The early professional career of Cassius Clay, as he trains under Angelo Dundee in Miami
- Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight: Cassius Clay vs. the United States of America – A detailed account of Ali’s legal battles against the government following his refusal to be inducted into the army.
- The Muhammad Ali Reader – 30 different essays from a huge range of great authors, covering Ali all the way through his career. Offerings from Liebling, Plimplton, Gay Talese, Hunter Thompson, Joyce Carol Oates, and many other notables.
- The Tao of Muhammad Ali & The Soul of a Butterfly – Both of these Muhammad Ali books offer a glimpse at the spiritual side of the boxing icon. Learn more about what he stood for, what he believes, how he has been striving to live his life, and what you can take from it all.
- GOAT Greatest of All Time an Ali Tribute and Muhammad Ali the Glory Years – Both of these selections are primarily comprised of photos, offering tons of unseen photographs, rare finds and unique, memorable images. They are both filled in with essays, quotes, interviews and other content as well.
- Muhammad Ali the Making of an Icon – The story of Ali told from the unique perspectives of how society viewed him, and how different people “presented him” or even took advantage of him along the way.
You might find this book entitled “Million Dollar Baby” and other stories from the ring, because that original piece was featured in Rope Burns before it became the major motion picture. This collection of fiction boxing stories is pretty fantastic, offering amazing insight into everything from the triumphs to the heart wrenching to the mundane world of boxing.
This has it all, and there are about a dozen short stories that all offer something unique while maintaining Toole’s realistic, palpable voice. Not many of the best boxing books are fiction, but Rope Burns is an entry into the field that is worthy of its placement. A definite pick up for boxing and fight fans, and something that can be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys a good story, with real characters.
One of the great sportswriters of all-time gave us one of the best boxing books or novels of all time. Published originally over 50 years ago, the Professional remains a classic example of boxing literature. It avoids cliches while providing a vivid, real portrayal of the boxing world.
The book follows boxer Eddie Brown, who along with his trainer/manager Doc Carroll, is on the way to a shot at the middleweight championship of the world. The book was good enough to make none other than Ernest Hemingway a fan, and anyone who enjoys the sport of boxing will enjoy kicking back with this one from Heinz.
by Craig Davidson
The Fighter by Craig Davidson is a novel that’s somewhat in the mold of “Fight Club”. The book pits the stories of a few different individuals from entirely different backgrounds on their collision course with one another. One is a standout amateur boxing prospect with a bright, and lucrative, boxing career in his future. His family has been in the game and that’s all he knows.
The other is a well off individual who’s never known a bit of fighting but through a series of events finds himself immersed in the world of underground fights. How will the prized boxing pupil and the coddled suburbanite meet, and how will that affect their respective trajectories? Great read, and a very quick and enjoyable boxing book with plenty of other interesting themes and subplots.
by Otto Penzler
This is actually a collection of short boxing stories and fiction pieces from a variety of prominent authors. There are 14 different and unique stories in the collection. You’ll get to see samplings from the likes of F.X. Toole, Joyce Carol Oates and Mike Lupica, amongst others.
With a name for the book like “Murder on the Ropes” followed by “original boxing mysteries” you can be assured that you won’t find any cookie cutter, saw-it-a-mile-away boxing stories in the mix. These are real unique and engaging offerings that paint a very realistic fight game world, shady characters and dealings including, without being stereotypical or overdone.
This offering from Toole, the author of Rope Burns (above) was pieced together posthumously from a 900 page manuscript that Toole had written but not yet finished. The story follows the life of a former professional fighter who has now outlived his wife and child. Living his life largely through his grandchild, tragedy strikes when he is killed.
The main character then needs to find another outlet and another way to live his life. A hard-hitting tale that could fit into the world of the best boxing books, or simply solid literature efforts. It’s only a shame we didn’t get to see the final version as Toole would have penned it and finished it himself.
There you have it, the most thorough and in-depth collection and review of the best boxing books for sale that you can find anywhere online. So stock up and get to reading, you won’t be disappointed. If you feel that we have committed any of your own personal favorites which should be on our list of the best boxing books of all-time, then please just let us know.