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The 12 Greatest Rounds of Boxing

Release date: 30th November, 2004
Publisher: Robson Books

List Price: £8.99
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'The 12 Greatest Rounds of Boxing'
By Ferdie Pacheco MD
Robson Books

Boxing is one sport renowned for its ability to regularly produce unexpected drama, adored by its fans for the way in which it frequently manages to create edge-of-the-seat excitement. Similarly, most followers of boxing appreciate that hidden behind the sport's well-guarded perimeter fence is a darker, murkier side, details of which rarely reach the general public. As a consequence, boxing has long been a breeding ground for conspiracy theorists, a home for those who continually see the machinations of a darker controlling force operating in the sport's not inconsiderable shadows.

Ferdie Pacheco was, between 1962 and 1977, Muhammad Ali's corner man and physician; there is probably little in boxing he has not experienced, from some of the greatest fights of all time to the most unscrupulous of behind the scene manoeuvrings. In this collection of a dozen essays, he maintains the reader's attention by serving up a wonderful series of atmospheric anecdotes, each of which regularly combine fantastic sporting achievement with a unique inside line on boxing's more shameless episodes.

From Jack Dempsey 'the modern Apollo' versus Jess Willard in 1919, through 'the long round' (seven) of the Dempsey - Tunney fight of 1927 and onto the Ali versus Liston re-match of 1965, Pacheco's writing style packs in just enough detail to set the scene before he delivers the facts. It's a comparatively short book, but it still manages to whet the reader's appetite, leaving him or her wanting more information on matters, such as how low the Dempsey shot on Jack Sharkey (yes, a distant relative) actually was.

One of the best examples is Pacheco on 'The Rumble in the Jungle', the famous fight between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali in October 1974.

He begins by providing a sets of condensed, 'pen-pics' on the main players. Promoter Don King who, following a jail sentence for manslaughter, turned himself into "a self-taught scholar with a penchant for flowery phases." Then there is Foreman himself, "a brooding, sullen character" before we hear of "The incomparable Ali."

Pacheco moves on to describe the Zaire government's craving for recognition - so much so that it partly underwrote the cost of the fight from which Ali collected $5.45m. The sinister President Mobutu enters the fray, a man who, according to the author "took things seriously." When the fight tickets were printed incorrectly, substituting the letter 'o' for a u' in Mobutu's name, the printer paid for the mistake with his life. Serious indeed.

Away from the shocking, Pacheco sprinkles humour in liberal doses. King brought in a jazz band to play at a concert, but they went down like a lead balloon and retired afterwards to their hotel bar. They were only allowed to leave the country after racking up a room service tab of $150,000 after Mobutu's men confiscated their instruments.
As for the fight, Ali is described as "the handsome prince" returning for his crown while Foreman's pugilistic strategy is wonderfully summed up thus: "In the thinking department, Foreman was a Model T to Ali's Maserati."

Pacheco squeezes enough detail into each of these twelve vignettes to make them enjoyable, funny and thought-provoking in equal measure, which leaves the reader thinking, "Did he (insert any of several names) really get away with that?" and hoping that the good doctor's next book is not far away.



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