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Book review: Sporting Blood-Tales from the Dark Side of Boxing

Acevedo can write 

By John J. Raspanti

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Sporting Blood
Sporting Blood

Carlos Acevedo’s Sporting Blood, a collection of twenty-one boxing related stories, is a virtual potpourri of legends, contenders, and mysteries in the often-time dark annuls of professional boxing.

 

Some of the stories are well known, but Acevedo writes so well that the reader goes along, entertained by his impressive prose. His chapters on legends Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Jack Johnson, and Sonny Liston, are interesting. He delves into the tragic lives of Davey Moore, and Johnny Tapia, and, in a chapter titled “The Survivor,” he relates the long and brutal life of Jake LaMotta. There are also sections on Mike Tyson, Aaron Pryor, and Tony Ayala Jr.

 

But it’s his essays on lessor known fighters that I enjoyed most. Stories on Ad Wolgast and Carmelo Negron are informative and absorbing.

 

“No Exit-The Story of Eddie Machen” describes in detail Machen’s bad luck in and out of the ring. Perhaps he crossed the path of a black cat once too often or was given to recklessly overturning saltshakers,” Acevedo writes. “A naturally gifted boxer, Machen had a habit of bringing more than just his gloves into the ring.

 

“Lightening Express-The quick rise and even quicker fall of Al Singer” is a fascinating tale of a wildly popular phenom. Acevedo writes, “Today Singer is little more than a historical footnote, regarded as lightly, perhaps, as Jimmy Goodrich or Rocky Kansas, but at his peak, from 1928 to 1930, Al Singer was a bona fide sensation.

 

Since I remember Mike Quarry so well, Acevedo’s chapter, “Mike Quarry and the Quarry curse” is heartbreaking. Used and abused by his father, Jack, Quarry had engaged in 61 fights by the time he was 24. Scar tissue lived above his left eye. Some felt that it bled before the first bell rang. Quarry could box but preferred to bang. He wanted to be like his big brother, Jerry, a hard-punching heavyweight, but Mike couldn’t punch. No matter, he kept fighting. Like most fighters, who cannot break away from pursuit ingrained in them from the time they were children, Quarry continued fighting long after he should have retired,” Acevedo writes. “He seemed out of place at the dawn of the glitzy 1980s, his handsome features now permanently misshapen, and his eyes, beneath the scarred brows, now developing a faraway gaze.

 

Acevedo’s book is compelling and powerful. Highly recommended.

 

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