Gene Tunney and the Quality of Mercy

Gene Tunney and the Quality of Mercy

In defeating Tom Heeney, Tunney gave fight fans one last reminder of their ambivalence.

The Heavyweight Bookshelf: Sonny Liston

The Heavyweight Bookshelf: Sonny Liston

In death, he possesses a singular capacity to stimulate writers’ tough-guy fantasies and fondness for conspiracy theories.

Boxing's Longest Day: Sullivan v. Kilrain, July 8, 1889

Boxing's Longest Day: Sullivan v. Kilrain, July 8, 1889

In a legendary episode, they fought over an unimaginable distance—75 rounds, for two hours and 16 minutes, in 100-degree heat—before the issue was resolved.

The Heavyweight Bookshelf: Joe Louis

The Heavyweight Bookshelf: Joe Louis

When you read the history of the heavyweights, you’re reading a story that can be separated into BL and AL periods—Before Louis and After Louis.

Pure Art: Remembering William Nack

Pure Art: Remembering William Nack

Writers of any stripe should save his long-form portraits on their hard drives.

How Hot Was It?

How Hot Was It?

The temperature was about 105 degrees on that day in 1915 when Jack Johnson fought Jess Willard—unless it was closer to 70.

The Heavyweight Bookshelf: Jack Johnson

The Heavyweight Bookshelf: Jack Johnson

Like a protagonist in a Bob Dylan song, Jack Johnson was a trickster genius, never an easy man to characterize.

When Tokyo Was Tyson Town

When Tokyo Was Tyson Town

His 1988 battle with Tony Tubbs in Tokyo would be the last time that the world saw Tyson so serene, or at least stable. Storms were breaking around him. 

The Heavyweight Bookshelf: John L. Sullivan

The Heavyweight Bookshelf: John L. Sullivan

If you write about boxing, you ought to wake up every morning and thank him.

The Heavyweight Bookshelf: Jack Dempsey

The Heavyweight Bookshelf: Jack Dempsey

The Dempsey bibliography mirrors the man's own itinerant ways, in his early life—it's scattered, as he was, to the four winds.

The Heavyweight Bookshelf: Floyd Patterson

The Heavyweight Bookshelf: Floyd Patterson

Few boxers of any era have given writers more to work with.

Jack Johnson Crosses the Line, 1908

Jack Johnson Crosses the Line, 1908

The first black man to win the heavyweight title, Johnson was breaking a color line first drawn by John L. Sullivan.

When the Champs Suited Up (and Didn't)

In honor of Veterans Day, some thoughts on the heavyweight champions and military service

My Path to "The Boxing Kings"

My Path to "The Boxing Kings"

The Boxing Kings is my attempt to encapsulate a long-running interest in the heavyweight champions into one narrative that includes them all.

Gentleman Jim and John L., on the Big Screen

Gentleman Jim and John L., on the Big Screen

Had Sullivan and Corbett lived to see their lives portrayed on film, it would no doubt have been another source of discord that here, too, Corbett had the upper hand.

Old-Fashioned Heroes: Braddock and "Cinderella Man"

Old-Fashioned Heroes: Braddock and "Cinderella Man"

In the end, how you react to Cinderella Man probably tracks how you feel about traditionally minded movies—and perhaps traditional values, to boot. 

Jack Johnson, the Unknowable

Jack Johnson, the Unknowable

Part of the intrigue for the reader is trying to parse when he is in earnest, when he is knowingly deceiving us, and when he is perhaps deceiving himself.

The quotable Joe Louis

Louis had a wry sense of humor and a gift for getting to the nub of a matter without the language clutter that often afflicts better-educated speakers