Boxing is a sport that has been around for centuries. It is a physical and mental battle between two opponents. The sport can be traced back to ancient Greece, where it was used as a training tool for soldiers.
Over the years, boxing has evolved into a mainstream sport that is enjoyed by people all over the world.
Here are 31 books that will give you a glimpse inside the world of boxing. They include stories about some of boxing's greatest and most interesting fighters including Mohammad Ali, Hector "Macho" Camacho, Mike Tyson, and many others.
Written by: Geoffrey C. Ward
Jack Johnson, born in 1878, was an American boxer who became the first African American world heavyweight champion. He lived during a time of significant racial segregation and faced constant discrimination. Despite this, he became one of the most successful boxers in history.
In 1908, he defeated Tommy Burns to become the world heavyweight champion and held the title for six years. However, his legacy was forever tainted when he was convicted of violating the Mann Act in 1913.
The Mann Act made it illegal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes, and Johnson had been caught with a white woman. He was sentenced to a year in prison but was released after seven months due to public outcry. This is a story that needs to be read by everyone to understand the history of boxing and our country.
Written by: Norman Mailer
Published: 1997 (Originally published in 1975)
Most people only think of The Fight as a battle between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. However, Norman Mailer breaks it down to so much more about the lead-up along with the fight. Ranging from Zaire's corrupt government to all kinds of journalists (including Hunter S. Thompson) coming down early along with loads of hangers-on, you get a real feel for this event.
This book is fascinating because of how he described the drinking, partying, and everything else that went down, which would surprise any boxing fan. Mailer does a fantastic job of explaining every single jab, punch, bob, and weave throughout it from the ringside.
And, of course, there is the amazing fight between the aging but still bragging Muhammad Ali and the young quiet George Foremen. When you read this book, you will feel teleported back to 1974 and a whole different world.
Written by: George Kimball
Boxing is one of the oldest and most primal sports in the world. Men have been pummeling each other into submission since the first caveman picked up a rock, and there's something about two human beings slugging it out that remains endlessly fascinating today.
In this anthology, George Kimball brings together readings by some of America's greatest writers about boxing. From Jack London to James Baldwin to Joyce Carol Oates, these authors offer an illuminating look at a sport that has captivated and repelled us for centuries.
The fights they chronicle are legendary, so you’ll read about the best and brightest in this book. Therefore, the next time you watch two of these fantastic athletes step into the ring, this book gives you the chance to reflect on the history of boxing and how it has changed over the decades.
Written by: Christian Giudice
Very few boxers have ever accomplished what Hector "Macho" Camacho did during his career, including winning three different weight classes. Known for being one of the fastest fighters in the ring, he was able to dominate in his younger years but didn't know when to quit the game. His fights are chronicled in this in-depth biography of him.
Sadly, when you read this book, you'll also see everything he's achieved, but it has always seemed like something was holding him back from being the greatest ever. This book explores how his drug use and partying were a significant player in making his career and life much more painful until he died in 2012.
Written by: A. J. Liebling
Published: 2004 (Originally published in 1949)
Any fan of boxing knows the rules and regulations. However, do they really understand the game? Liebling is famous for his sweet science pieces in the New Yorker, which he used to bring together in this book. Named as the best American Book by Rolling Stone at the time of original publication, this will be a fantastic lesson in everything related to the sport.
Each essay in this compilation looks at one fight and breaks it down, so it is easy to understand. Instead of just being skin-deep, he looks at the tactics, how the times influence the fights and our society in general during the different times. Some of the boxers include Rocky Marciano, Joe Lewis, and others.
Written by: Tris Dixon
In opposition to so many of the books on this list is about the fights and the show around them, this book delves into the lesser discussed ongoing issue of the brain damage caused by boxing. It is evident that the promoters, boxing agencies, and everyone else don't seem to care as long as they can make a buck and keep the truth hidden.
Dixon looks at how having a CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) can affect a person's career, and more importantly, their life, without realizing when they are young. Examples of the people who have dealt with this include Muhammad Ali, Micky Ward, and others too numerous to count.
That is the sad part of watching this magnificent sport and knowing that the pain is only starting when they get punched for some of these men and women.
Written by: Mike Tyson
In this candid autobiography, Mike Tyson tells the unvarnished story of his life and career—from his earliest days in the Brooklyn ghetto and getting bullied and beat up to his status as heavyweight champion of the world.
Tyson pulls no punches, describing in raw detail what it was like to become a famous and infamous celebrity at a young age, to experience firsthand the consequences of poverty, racism, and violence, and to be tried and convicted for a crime he did not commit.
This is a powerful story about one man's fight to find meaning in his life. He also candidly discusses his struggles with drug addiction, depression, and feelings of emptiness. The beatify of this book is that instead of wallowing in his mistakes, he rises above them, often using humor, and you will laugh and cry during it.
Written by: Carlos Acevedo
As a boxing writer and historian, Carlos Acevedo has seen it all. In his new book, Sporting Blood: Tales from the Dark Side of Boxing, Acevedo chronicles the sport's history of brutality and violence. From illegal prize fights to fixed matches to Mafia connections, Acevedo sometimes paints a bleak picture of the world of boxing.
However, he also offers a glimpse into the sport's redeeming qualities, highlighting the incredible athleticism and discipline of some of its greatest champions. Being that Acevedo was a professional boxer and a coach, this will be a deep dive into the truth of the sport, both good and bad.
Written by: Donald McRae
This book is so in-depth that it is almost impossible to describe in a few paragraphs. Set during “The Troubles” in Ireland with the Protestants and the Catholics, this was a brutal and terrifying time for everyone living there. Gerry Story was a hero because not only would he refuse to segregate the fighters, but he also wanted equality for all and worked for it.
He also became the trainer for the world champion Barry McGuigan and led the careers of many other greats. Since he had fighters from both sides of the religious and political battles in Ireland, he was also hated by the other.
An example of this is that he was the focus of three bombing attacks. This sounds brutal, and it was, but this book is incredibly inspiring since you see a man, and the fighters, who refuse to give in to hatred and let the sport simply be the sport. It is a triumph over "The Troubles."
Written by: Don Stradley
Over 35 years ago, the fight only lasted for three rounds and is still considered one of the greatest ever in the sport. Unlike most boxing matches, these two fighters didn't wait to dance and jab; they went all out trying to destroy each other from the first ring of the bell.
When Hagler was knocked down, he was too dizzy even to realize what had happened and needed to be carried from the ring.
The beauty of this book is that there is so much information on the fight and their lives. Both grew up knowing they'd be boxers and doing anything needed while there are opposites such as Hagler paying people to party with him and Hagler being utterly no-nonsense.
The last central figure in this book is the promoter Bob Arum. Thinking that boxing may be starting to decline, this salesman could basically accomplish anything he wanted. It is a masterful book about three disparate personalities that changed the boxing world.
Written by: Muhammad Ali, Richard Durham and edited by Toni Morrison
In the 1960s, Muhammad Ali was one of the most celebrated athletes in the world. He won three heavyweight boxing titles and was known for his quick wit and powerful punches. But long before he became a household name, Ali faced racism and discrimination.
This moving autobiography tells Ali's story in his own words, from his early days growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, to his historic fights against Joe Frazier and George Foreman.
As readers follow Ali's journey from an inexperienced boxer to an international icon, they'll learn about not just the fights but also the even more important battle for civil rights and equality for all people. Even above his boxing skills, this is where he truly knocked people out no matter what they did to stop him.
Written by: Roger Kahn
When most people think of the Roaring '20s, images of jazz music, prohibition, and flapper girls come to mind. But there was another side to the decade—a side that was wild, energetic, and unpredictable. This side was embodied by Jack “The Manassas Mauler” Dempsey, a boxer who rose to fame during the 1920s.
Dempsey was one of the best boxers in history and one of the most colorful and controversial figures of his time. In this book, author Jack Cavanaugh tells the story of Dempsey's life and how he helped shape America during one of its most tumultuous eras. This book gives a beautiful description of the man and the era, which was full of people breaking out of the sadness of World War I and living life to the fullest.
Written by: Jeremy Schaap
Have you ever heard of the greatest upset in boxing? No, not Mike Tyson's loss to Buster Douglas. It was without question James J. Braddock's victory over Max Baer in 1935. Here is a quick rundown if you're not familiar with the story.
Braddock was a working-class man from New Jersey who had to take on several odd jobs to support his family after his father died. Meanwhile, Baer was a heavyweight champion considered by many to be invincible.
Baer, who was terrifying and had the nickname of “The Livermore Butcher” since he supposedly had killed two men in the ring, was not going to be an easy fight. In what was considered an almost impossible upset, Braddock knocked out Baer in the eighth round to claim the title.
This book shows that anyone can overcome the odds, no matter how great, if they continue battling and refuse to give in to the naysayers.
Written by: Joe Frazier and Phil Berger
For someone who has been through so much, it is impressive how kind, calm, and open a man like "Smokin'" Joe Frazier would be. He ended his career with an Olympic Gold medal and 27 knockouts in 37 fights. And although his role in boxing will never be forgotten for his battles against others, his fight against oppression genuinely showed his character.
This autobiography discusses why he wasn't drafted during the Vietnam War, how he helped Muhammad Ali get reinstated, and stories regarding the mob. He reveals so much in this book that no one else even mentions in others that it is enthralling and a must-read for everyone. His humor and humility come through in each sentence, and you'll be laughing at one and wide-eyed in amazement at the next.
Written by: Joyce Carol Oates with photography by John Ranard
Published: 2006 (Originally published in 1987)
If you love boxing, you'll know the name, Joyce Carol Oates. She is one of the most elegant sports writers and can dodge and weave herself through a story and match like no other. This is basically a collection of essays that she has previously published throughout the years.
Some of the essays are about the civil rights movement and integration in the sport, how different fighters were able to win while others failed, and more. Being that Oates was an academic instead of just a sportswriter, you will see the world of boxing in a different and new light.
Written by: Leigh Montville
In 1971, Muhammad Ali refused induction into the United States Army because of his religious beliefs and was subsequently arrested. He was convicted of draft evasion, stripped of his world heavyweight boxing title, and barred from boxing for three years.
Even though Ali knew that he would lose millions because of his moral values, he refused to back down no matter what the results. In this intriguing book, Leigh Montville highlights the nuanced case that pits Ali against the United States of America.
Drawing on archival materials and interviews with key players, Montville provides a comprehensive overview of this complex legal battle and its implications for civil liberties in America. Exploring issues such as free speech, racial discrimination, and religious exemptions, this book offers a unique perspective on one of the most iconic cases in American history.
Written by: Jay R. Tunney
Gene Tunney and George Bernard Shaw were two very different men with two very different careers. Tunney was a prizefighter who became the World Heavyweight Champion, while Shaw was a renowned playwright and intellectual. However, the two had one thing in common: they were both brilliant and well-spoken.
In this book, Tunney and Shaw's lives are explored in detail, showing how their unique friendship influenced each other. This is especially true when you consider that Shaw was at least 40 years older than Tunney. Because they occupied such different worlds, this book's stories are unique and exciting beyond imagination. The Prizefighter and the Playwright is an engaging read for anyone interested in either man's life story.
Written by: Jack Cavanaugh
It would have been hard to think of two more different people than Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey. Dempsey was a great boxer, and a fascinating and flamboyant personality, while Tunney was cerebral and planned every action in the ring. Because he upset Dempsey and had a record of seventy-seven wins to one loss, he is also one of the greatest boxers of the 20s and of all time.
Even with all this history and wins, he is sort of a forgotten character in boxing. Even more so, he is overlooked as a knowledgeable man who became a CEO and became a member of high society. However, even though they were very different, they also became friends because they respected each other and their personalities.
Written by: Wil Haygood
In the boxing world, only a handful of names reign supreme. Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. are some of the biggest names in the sport's history. But before any of those champions came along, there was Sugar Ray Robinson.
Robinson was known for his lightning-fast hands and ability to knock out his opponents with ease. Wil Haygood's new book Sweet Thunder tells the story of America's first sports superstar and one of the greatest boxers ever to live.
His life outside the ring was just as impressive as his accomplishments inside it. Being friends with Lena Horne, Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, and others, he impacted the world in a way that few boxers could at that time. From serving in World War II to fighting for civil rights, Robinson left a legacy on American culture. This book is a must-read because there is so much more to the man than just his boxing skills.
Written by: David Margolick
In both 1936 and 1938, two fighters with vastly different backgrounds stepped into a ring at New York City's Yankee Stadium. Joe Louis was an American boxer who had grown up in poverty and violence. Max Schmeling was a German fighter whose career had been resurrected by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime.
The matchup represented more than just two men fighting for sport for many. It was a battle between good and evil, democracy and fascism. In 1936, Schmeling beat Louis even as a 1 to 1 underdog. When the rematch happened in 1938, Louis destroyed him in just over 2 minutes, and it showed the world that the Nazis were not superior to anyone. And if anything, Joe Louis, an African American, was easily superior to their best.
Written by: Paul D. Gibson
Eamonn Magee isn't as well-known as many of the fighters on this list, but he could easily have been one of their equals. Even as he won the WBU world welterweight and Commonwealth light-welterweight titles, he couldn't keep the demons at bay, and his career ran off the rails.
Starting with his childhood, Magee was constantly involved with the IRA during The Troubles.
Beyond that, he was constantly in the presence of, or a part of, drinking, gambling, drugs, and violence that would weigh him down. In what could have been an incredible career and life, Magee couldn't control himself. Sadly, all this craziness ended in 2015 when he was murdered. This book is powerful and shows how people with so much talent can go wrong.
Written by: William Gildea
On September 3, 1906, in a small town in Maryland, African American boxer Joe Gans and Oscar "Battling" Nelson, a notorious racist, stepped into a boxing ring and fought for something much bigger than themselves. The contest was billed as the "Match of the Century," which would go down in history as the longest professional fight ever.
For 42 rounds, these two men battled it out until finally, Gans emerged victoriously.
This fight was more than just a boxer's matchup; it was a symbol of hope for African Americans who were fighting for equality and acceptance at a time when they were regularly discriminated against. Through his win, Gans showed that black athletes could achieve success in any field they chose to pursue.
This is just one example of the many impressive accomplishments of the many legendary achievements during his lifetime.
Written by: Angelo Dundee and Ber Randolph Sugar
If you are a boxing fan, Angelo Dundee is someone you know of very well. And if you aren't a fan of boxing, this is a man you will need to know about and how his life affected boxing for decades.
This is the man that led so many of the greatest boxers, such as Muhammad Ali, "Sugar" Ray Leonard, and George Foreman, among others, to the highest heights in the sport.
However, his knowledge of boxing, and the people he managed, is just a part of this incredible autobiography. He also goes into controversial topics such as whether the fight between Ali and Liston was fixed, how the second Leonard vs. Duran fight in which everyone says that Duran yelled, “NO MAS!” was a lie, and more.
His discussion on Muhammad Ali’s conversion to Islam is not to be missed since he saw how it affected his career, and more importantly, his life. You will learn more about the history of this incredible sport by reading this book than you could ever imagine.
Written by: Joe Layden
In what was supposed to be one of the easiest boxing matches of his career, "Iron" Mike Tyson stepped into the ring again the lesser-known Buster Douglas. Most reporters expected to stay for the night and then fly home since it would be a demolition like none other.
However, Buster had other ideas and refused to accept that he was a nobody.
Most people don't realize that Buster Douglas' father was also an excellent boxer who realized this was his chance to make history and train harder than ever for the fight. He was also raised in a stable household with two devoted parents who gave him love and support.
On the other hand, Tyson was famous, getting lazy, and didn't take the fight seriously at all. Unlike Buster, he basically raised himself lived a rough and brutal childhood. Neither realized how much this fight would rock their worlds for the rest of their lives.
Written by: George Chuvalo and Murray Greig
George Chuvalo was a fantastic boxer who fought against the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman, among others. Being Canadian, he also became the longest-reigning champion in the history of the sport in his home country.
However, his boxing story is just the beginning of a drama-filled life, the highest highs, and the lowest lows.
After retiring from boxing after over 20 years, his life fell apart. One of his sons had become a heroin addict and committed suicide. Two of his other sons were also heroin addicts and died of overdoses. As if that wasn't enough, his wife, who couldn't deal with such horrors, took her own life. However, these terrible events didn't stop him.
Instead of allowing himself to be defeated, he started a program to help people fight drug addiction all over Canada. Because of his recovery from so much, he has become an inspiration for all.
Written by: Damian Hughes and Brian Hughes
There are few things more marvelous than a great boxing story in this life. And the story of Marvin Hagler is one worth telling. This bold and outspoken fighter from Brockton, Massachusetts, burst onto the scene in the 1970s, taking on all comers and beating them soundly. He was crowned world champion in 1980 and defended his title a total of twelve times – more than any other middleweight boxer in history.
From his spectacular ring entrances to his devastating knockout blows, Hagler was one of the most exciting fighters to watch – and one of the most successful, too. In this riveting biography, Damian Hughes tells Hagler's amazing story from beginning to end. It's a tale that is sure to capture your heart and leave you amazed at everything the Marvelous one did in his life.
Written by: Harry Otty
You’ve never heard of Charley Burley before now? Well, you aren’t alone. He is probably one of the greatest boxers of all time, he basically is unknown because of racism, and how many of the other fighters refused to get in the ring against him.
This includes the best of the best since they knew he would tear them apart with his ability and intellect.
And you might wonder why else you haven't heard of him, and here are just some of the reasons. He was a man of principle who wouldn't let anyone cheat him or his fans, and he sadly paid the price for it. Other managers would make sure their asking prices for the fights were too expensive, others would freeze the titles so he couldn't fight for them, and he also refused to work with the mob and let them into his matches.
If the others had played by the rules, you may not know their names, and Charley Burley would be one of the first of the genuinely famous boxers in the world.
Written by: Andy Lee and Niall Kelly
Born and raised in Ireland, Andy Lee decided to move to Detroit in 2005 to up his game and see how far he could go in the world of boxing. Because many of the great boxers of the time were also training at Kronk Gym, he was able to adjust and learn very quickly. Because of this and his skill, he became an Olympic athlete and won a World Title.
The book also peers into the dark side of boxing and how it is complicated and deceitful if the powers that be don't want you to win. Among being one of the best for his time, he is known to be an excellent person who has time for anyone and is friendly and gregarious.
Simply stated, if you ever meet anyone from Ireland, just mention Andy Lee, and you'll see their eyes light up, and they'll be your friend for life.
Written by: Mike Stanton
In the boxing world, there have been many champions. Some were considered badasses, some were deemed to be vulnerable, and some were considered scrappy. But there was only one heavyweight champion who was never knocked down in his career—Rocky Marciano. From 1952 to 1956, he went a perfect 49 and 0 using an unbeatable punch nicknamed "Suzie Q." This is his story.
Despite coming from a rough background and fighting in a crooked world, Rocky Marciano managed to stay undefeated and become one of the most iconic boxers of all time. In this book, author Mike Stanton takes an in-depth look at the life and times of Rocky Marciano, from his rise to fame to his tragic death.
Written by: Tom Clavin and Phil Keith
This biography is about one of the lesser-known but still amazing boxers of his day. However, it is so much more than that. Eugene Bullard was definitely a great boxer, but he also was a man who could not be stopped, no matter the circumstances.
This includes leaving Georgia when he was just eleven years old to escape the racism of the south and moving to Europe. Then he became the first African American fighter pilot in history during World War I and World War II.
As if that wasn’t enough, he was also a spy for the French during the war and helped the Allies beat the Nazis. Because of his heroics and incredible intellect, he became famous with people who visited a club he owned in Paris named "Le Grand Duc."
They included Ernest Hemingway, Picasso, Josephine Baker, and others. Finally, he became a strong advocate for civil rights in the U.S.A. later in his life. In all reality, Bullard could dominate in anything he wanted, whether inside or outside the ring.
Written by: Jerry Izenberg with a foreword by Manny Pacquaio
In his book, Once There Were Giants: The Golden Age of Heavyweight Boxing, author Jerry Izenberg tells the story of the heavyweight boxing champions who reigned supreme from 1962 to 1997. Izenberg was a sportswriter who was there for many of the fights and saw the reality between the ropes and behind the scenes.
These larger-than-life athletes were true giants in their field, and their stories are sure to capture the imagination of any boxing enthusiast or sports fan. From Jack Dempsey to Muhammad Ali, these men fought with skill and bravado, thrilling fans worldwide.
With Izenberg's expert storytelling and lively prose, readers will feel as if they are right there in the ring with these legendary boxers. This is an excellent finisher for anyone who wants to know about the best decades of the heavyweight boxing era.