“A Total Eclipse Of The Sonny”

One of the half-dozen most famous Americans of the twentieth century steps into full daylight

Dressed like mod young cornermen, the Beatles arrived at Miami’s Fifth Street Gym in February 1964 for a publicity meeting with a boxer whose euphonious name meant little to them. Cassius Marcellus Clay was freshly turned 22 years old and (as a 7-to-1 betting underdog) showed a certain presumption in challenging for Sonny Liston’s heavyweight title; on this afternoon he kept the world’s greatest pop band waiting for 15 minutes.Read more »

A Sporting Life

The author of America’s best-loved baseball book speaks of his days as a reporter, of his time (unique among sportswriters) owning a team, and of his latest subject, Jack Dempsey, whose violent career he uses to illuminate an era

Born in Brooklyn in 1927, Roger Kahn learned early the difference between the bright grass at nearby Ebbets Field and the poetic grass that was, as his antibaseball mother read to him from Whitman, “the beautiful uncut hair of graves.” Kahn’s literate sport-mindedness, so admired over the years by reviewers of his lyrical yet savvy memoirs and baseball histories, can probably be traced to the dining-table arguments of his Brooklyn teacher parents (the classicist, sports-phobic mother, Olga, and the Dodger-friendly historian father, Gordon) debating baseball’

 
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The Business Of Boxing

Some people think that the history of boxing as a glamorous business, as promotion rather than as sport, begins with Muhammad Ali and Don King. Before Ali, they say, boxing was I just a bunch of palookas punching each other. Ali was boxing’s first showman, they say, the first glamour boy, the first bad guy whom the fans loved to hate; the first black athlete to be revered worldwide, the sport’s first true media creation.Read more »

Yours Truly, John L. Sullivan

Taking on all comers, he had always dropped his man—but his supreme moment came in bare-knuckle boxing’s last great fight

On Highway 11 on the outskirts of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a roadside historical plaque bears this inscription: