Sunday, February 22, 2015

Book Review: The Choynski Chronicles

 The Sunday Book Review by Peter Silkov

“The Choynski Chronicles:  A Biography of Hall of Fame Boxer Jewish Joe Coynski”  by Christopher J. Laforce

Joe Choynski is a name that will probably fail to ring a bell for most boxing fans today, aside from those who have an acute interest in the history of the sport and the great fighters of the past.  Yet, Choynski was one of the greatest fighters of his time, and during a career, which ran from 1889 to 1904. “Chrysanthemum Joe” fought a dazzling array of top names, including five men who would go on to become heavyweight champion of the world.  It is an irony of Choynski’s career, and probably one of the reasons why he is not more remembered today by the general boxing fan, that he never got the chance to fight for the world title himself during his career.

Therefore, this is a biography that is seeking to regain some of the recognition and acclaim for Joe Choynski that has been lost steadily over the past 111 years since he last boxed competitively. With that in mind, author Christopher J. Laforce has made “The Choynski Chronicles” a magnum opus.  This is a near 800-page study on Choynski, both as a fighter and as a man.  Choynski’s personal and professional life is gone over in great detail. Choynski was not your average boxer, especially for the time. 

Born Joseph Bartlett Choynski, on November 8, 1868, in San Francisco California, he did not come from a poverty-stricken background, but rather a materially comfortable upbringing, with parents that were both cultured and intelligent. It is little surprise then that Choynski was to be one of the cleverest fighters of his time. He was one of first true boxer-punchers, mixing speed and ring science, with a true knockout punch.  This mixture of brains, speed, and power would enable Choynski to compete with the best heavyweights of the 1890s and 1900s, despite never weighing much more than 170 pounds. Chrysanthemum Joe often had to give away 20 or 30 pounds away to his opponents, but showed that size in itself is often no guarantee of victory, when met with the kind of strength and intelligence that Choynski possessed.

Choynski was the first of what would prove to be a wave of outstanding Jewish-American boxers. In many ways, he was a man ahead of his time, both as a fighter and as a man.

During his ring career, Choynski swapped punches with such top names as Frank Childs, Kid Mccoy, Joe Goddard, Jim Corbett, Tom Sharkey, Peter Maher, Bob Fitzsimmons, Jim Jeffries, Jack Johnson and Marvin Hart.  

One of the fascinating aspects of Choynski’s career is that he fought Jim Corbett, Bob Fitzsimmons, Jim Jeffries, Jack Johnson, and Marvin Hart, all before they won the Heavyweight championship of the world.  Amongst Choynski’s best results were his draws with Bob Fitzsimmons and Jim Jeffries, the Jeffries draw being after 20 rounds! However, Choynski’s most notable career victory must be his 3rd round knockout of a young Jack Johnson.

While Choynski was certainly afraid of no man regardless of size or reputation, another commendable aspect of his ring career is that he was one of the few top white heavyweights of his time not to draw the colour bar, and fought a number of the top coloured heavyweights of his day.  Indeed, within this biography there is a fascinating story of how after he had knocked out Jack Johnson, the both of them were jailed for 3 weeks for breach of the peace, and while incarcerated, they spent their time boxing exhibitions for the public. During these exhibitions, and the private time that they spent together, Choynski schooled Johnson in the science of defence, and Johnson would go on to be one of the greatest defensive technicians that the Heavyweight division has ever seen.

The Choynski Chronicles looks deeply into all of his fights, with round-by- round commentaries, and many insights into the build-ups and aftermaths of his battles, often using various newspaper articles from the time itself to shed light upon these historic fights.  But, this book is more than just a study of Choynski; it is also a fascinating insight into the lives and characters of the other boxers of his era, and the times in which they all lived. 

The book is filled with hundreds of rare photos, including many of Choynski’s opponents. There is also a detailed index and appendix, and a full record of Chrysanthemum Joe’s career. 

Some may find the size of this book daunting, but Laforces’s narrative, along with the huge amount of historical details, which he includes, combines to form a fascinating portrait of a very unique boxer and man.

Sometimes the balance between writing a definitive biography and an entertaining read can be lost in the detail, however, The Choynski Chronicles, Laforce has managed to keep that balance and even rise above it, and to form a biography that is a must read for anyone with any interest in boxing history.  Even those who are already acquainted with Choynski’s life and career will find much that they didn’t previously know within these pages.

The Choynski Chronicles is as clever and hard-hitting a book, as the man it portrays. 

 Copyright © 2015 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to and

twitterfacebookgoogle pluslinkedinrss feedemail

1 comment:

  1. OT: Hey sports fans, i know this is a bit off topic, but yes Manny Pacquiao vs Timothy Bradley fight is happening. The April 9 bout will mark the third time Manny Pacquiao and Tim Bradley have faced one another. Fortunately we can still see his training for previous fight with Tim Bradley at the Manny Pacquiao Official Youtube channel.