A L L E N   J.   F R A N T Z E N
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"He's the toughest machine
I ever built." --Coach Izzy
IzzyDuzItFitness at Extreme Kung Fu Chicago

  Below, featured boxing book review:
  F. X. Toole, Rope Burns.

F. X. TOOLE, Rope Burns: Stories from the Corner. New York: HarperCollins, 2000. $23.
F. X. Toole is the pen name of Jerry Boyd, a boxing trainer who worked in California. Rope Burns was his first book. It was the basis for "Million Dollar Baby" (2004). Pound for Pound, his novel, appeared four years after his death in 2002. That's a lot of success for someone who published his first book when he was 70.

Rope Burns is dedicated to Dub Huntley, who was his boxing trainer when Boyd was in his 40s, an advanced age for a fighter. Huntley was "my daddy in boxing," Boyd says in the dedication (quoted from the Wiki entry on Boyd). Unless I am mistaken, that note in the dedication is the author's one touch of sentiment in this uncompromising and tough book.

You don't have to read much of Rope Burns to feel the power of real boxing experience, close up, in the countless details that speak to all levels of boxing experience. Toole also sees a lot beyond the ring, including hospital death-beds, the Catholic confessional, and more. All of it is gripping and all of it, I will say, is also depressing. It is one sad side of boxing and boxing life after another, a sobdietes of tales.

There is much here--the Irish boxing experience, the black boxing experiece, the female boxing experience, all of it seen with an observing and cold eye. Things never seem to work out for anybody. Even the cut man is crooked.

The book is written to a very high standard, with many fine touches. It is a brilliant collection of stories, with surprise after surprise. It is one of the most memorable boxing books on my shelf, but not a book I will remember with affection. I was relieved when I finished it.

For reviews of other boxing books, go to this page ||.

June 2019