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Bunce’s Big Fat Short History of British Boxing By Steve Bunce

Release date: 01st June, 2017
Publisher: Bantam

List Price: £16.99
Our Price: £8.99
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Steve Bunce opens his short history of British boxing with a predictably bold statement. “This is the first history of modern British boxing since the bare-knuckle heyday of the nineteenth century,” he says.

‘Surely not,’ you think, until you try to name a book that focuses exclusively on Britain’s often rich, occasionally barren, history of the noble art and are unable to do so. Granted, there are plenty of record books and others dealing with raw statistics; similarly, there are several absorbing tomes, such as Donald McRae’s Dark Trade which, while liberally peppered with wit and compassion is far from being exclusively British in nature.

Incredibly, the author has identified an enormous gap in British sports writing, for there are no recognised biographies of fighters such as John Conteh or Lloyd Honeygan. Thankfully, however, Bunce acknowledges the important role both men played in what he calls ‘a boxing revolution’ which took place between 1970-2016.

Britain won five boxing gold medals at the last three summer Olympics; we collected two in the previous twelve Games. Although that seems like more of an exciting revival rather than a revolution, revisiting the biggest fights in the last half century, from those that attracted more than 20 million terrestrial television viewers, to others determined by crooked judges and hostile crowds, reminds us that boxing’s trajectory has been heading upward for some time.

Bunce is often less than complimentary about the British Board of Boxing Control (BBBC). Indeed, he hits out at the BBBC almost immediately when telling of Henry Cooper, a man who “…looked like one of those south London villains that are forever in the dock at the Old Bailey” and his bitter dispute with the Board towards the end of his career.

Having covered thousands of fights for several newspapers, Bunce has crafted a wonderful turn of phrase and collected a library of anecdotes. His tale of ‘awkward’ Jack Bodell, for instance, concludes with his clutch of obituaries, all of which featured photographs of Muhammed Ali visiting his fish and chip shop in Coventry.

Similarly engaging details appear throughout, adding a welcome human touch to a brutally tough sport. This history is not that short (it runs to 460-odd pages), but like any great boxer, Bunce has given it his everything. A brilliant read.


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