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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Book Review Facing Ali: 15 Fighters / 15 Stories

Facing Ali: 15 Fighters / 15 Stories
Stephen Brunt

What would it have been like to stand across the ring from one of the greatest fighters of the twentieth century? How does fighting a legend change or influence a person? Those questions are at the heart of Brunt's Facing Ali, which traces Ali's career not through the man himself, but through the men he fought.

Brunt begins chronologically, starting with Ali's first professional opponent, and moving through until he comes to Larry Holmes, the man who beat Ali in Ali's final night in the ring.

Each man gets a chapter all to himself, in which Brunt recounts the interviews he's conducted, along with providing some background on the men before the faced Ali, and their fate afterward. His writing is casual, but engaging, and he does a wonderful job of bringing the men he's interviewing to life.

While all of Ali's big name opponents are featured here, I actually found the stories of the lesser known men more fascinating in some ways. While Brunt does have some good things to say about Foreman, Fraizer, Holmes, and Ken Norton, it was the lives of men like Tunney Hunsaker (who spent most of his life as well-respected small town sheriff), or Jurgen Blin (a German boxer, who fought Ali when Ali couldn't fight in the states). These are the stories of men who were caught in the wake of a legend, who brushed with him, but are somehow forgotten when the legend itself is told.

Fans of any combat sport, particularly boxing, ought to pick this one up, as should anyone who's just interested in the legendarium that grows up around our modern athletes.

(Like this review? Visit my Amazon store and pick up a copy, or any number of other titles I've reviewed and recommended.

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