Four Kings – George Kimball

The subtitle of this book names the kings – Leonard, Hagler, Hearns and Duran. It’s a book about the last time boxing really mattered to people. These four dudes spent most of the late 70s and early 80s whaling on each other and George Kimball watched every one of the fights between them and all the others too.

He was by the sound of it, a boxing correspondent back when every newspaper had one, and that meant he hung out in the gyms where they trained and in the bars where all the talk was after the fights. And a lot of it is in this book. It tells the story of how each of the fighters got to the top of the middleweight-ish division (I can’t remember exactly – one of the things that I learnt was that there were fewer divisions back then, so if you wanted to step up you had to get much bigger). It details all the fights they had that were important – some of the opponents and training partners had such great nicknames, and what they thought of each other at various times.

It goes into most detail about the fights they had against each other, though: how the deals got made, how they were televised, how the purses were split, how their training went, and then how the fight went, round by round, blow by blow, and what all happened afterwards. It’s fascinating stuff, if you are at all interested in boxing. It doesn’t happen very often that great athletes end up in the same place at the same time and compete against each other for a couple of decades (having said that, there will be a great book written one day about Federer-Nadal-Djokovic), and their wildly differing personalities shine through.

This is a great piece of sports writing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The only shame is that no one in boxing now could inspire a similar book to be written.


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