Jacobs Beach: The Mob, the Garden, and the Golden Age of Boxing by Kevin Mitchell
|Jacobs Beach: The Mob, the Garden, and the Golden Age of Boxing by Kevin Mitchell|
|Reviewer: Robert James|
|Summary: Absolutely superb study of the growth and decline of boxing in Madison Square Garden and its links with the mob. If you'll pardon the pun, this is a real knockout!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: July 2011|
|Publisher: Yellow Jersey Press|
Despite not being a particular fan of the sport of boxing, Kevin Mitchell's compelling knowledge of the personalities involved in the fight game in the 20th century, coupled with a staccato writing style which got my attention quickly and kept it to the very last page, meant this book actually rose far above my expectations.
Mitchell focuses mainly on the years shortly after the Second World War, as the mob use their influence to control the various fighters and bring in the crowds, but eventually see the so-called golden age lose its lustre. There are fighters galore - the obvious ones such as Sonny Liston, Rocky Marciano, and Jake LaMotta, and later stars like Mike Tyson, as well as lesser known fighters including Billy Graham. The most facsinating characters to me, however, were the mobsters, the crimefighters, and the fightmakers - the senator Estes Kefauver, gangsters such as Frankie Carbo, and a wonderful chapter spent in the presence of Don King, one of the men to benefit most from the way that the mob were finally challenged by Kefauver.
There are a few bits which will be familiar to anyone - I'd imagine most readers will be well-versed in how Tyson started fighting when he attacked an older youth who'd broken the neck of one of his prized pigeons - and in many ways this helps the book, as Mitchell's piece about On The Waterfront and the famous "I coulda been a contender" speech is perhaps the most impressive piece of writing in a book full of wonderfully readable chapters. However, the vast majority of the book is completely new to a boxing rookie like myself and undoubtedly is well-written enough to be a fascinating read even to those more knowledgeable fans who'll perhaps know some of this already.
Overall a really high recommendation as one of my favourite sports books for some time. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
Further reading suggestion: For another fascinating tale of American sport in the middle of the last century, Paper Lion by George Plimpton comes highly recommended.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Jacobs Beach: The Mob, the Garden, and the Golden Age of Boxing by Kevin Mitchell at Amazon.com.
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