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No Way but to Fight George Foreman and the Business of Boxing By Andrew R. M. Smith

Release date: 11th January, 2020
Publisher: University of Texas Press

List Price: £25.00
Our Price: £20.65
You Save: £4.35 (17%)
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Read the prologue to Andrew Smith’s excellent No Way but to Fight, a superbly-well researched account of George Foreman’s eventful life and you’re transported to Tinseltown. Suddenly, your inner movie director shouts ‘action’ and characters with names such as Jerry Perenchio, ‘Tex’ Rickard and ‘Doc’ Cairns come to life in a sweaty gym somewhere along Las Vegas’s ‘Strip’.

Rickard and Cairns (Jack Dempsey’s former manager) had tried, with limited success, to attract big-name fights to the ‘Gomorrah of the Desert’, but it was Perenchio who hit the jackpot and effectively ended the major boxing event duopoly enjoyed by New York and California.

Money played a significant role, as the book’s revealing subtitle suggests. Smith’s research shows why the fight between Foreman and Jerry Lyle in January 1976 at Caesars Palace was guaranteed to be such a hit with fight fans, whether they were watching live or on TV.

“Every punch came through eight ounce gloves, thinner than those required in states such as New York or California,” writes Smith. The ring inside Caesars’ ‘Sports Pavilion’, which doubled as an indoor tennis arena, was tiny, which ensured that “there wasn’t much room to avoid [the punches] either,” he adds.

The slugfest, later named fight of the year by Ring Magazine, proved a massive hit; both men were knocked down in the fourth round before Foreman put Lyle away in the fifth. Interviewed afterwards, Foreman declared that he was on track to contest for the world heavyweight title. “I’m never going to give up,” he said. “I’ll die before I give up.” As Smith notes: Foreman had one goal and one path towards it. There were no short cuts, or, as Foreman said: “No way but to fight.”

Raised in Houston’s notorious ‘Bloody Fifth’ district, George Foreman would go on to become an
Olympic gold medallist and twice be crowned world heavyweight champion before selling cooking appliances the world over.

This is a cracking story and while Foreman’s life has been dissected before, Smith’s account, which includes fresh interviews with the man himself as well as extracts from recently declassified government documents, rates as perhaps the very best.

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