Saturday, April 25, 2015

Book Review: The 16TH Round: From Number 1 Contender To Number 45472

The Boxing Glove Book Review: by Peter Silkov
“The 16th Round: From Number 1 Contender To Number 45472”    By Rubin “Hurricane” Carter

The 16th Round is the extremely powerful and often moving autobiography of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. During the early to mid 1960s Rubin Carter was one of the top middleweight contenders in the world, a feared and destructive fighter, who was considered by many to be a future world champion. However, that is not the way things turned out for The Hurricane. Rubin Carter did not win the World middleweight title, instead he tried and failed in what would be his one and only world title chance. Then in a dark twist of fate, Carter saw both his remaining boxing career and his freedom snatched away from him when he was jailed in 1967 for his part in the murder of two white men and a white woman in a New Jersey bar.

Carter, and a friend John Artis, were eventually convicted of the killings on May 26, 1967, despite the apparent lack of solid evidence against the men. Also, the fact that the prosecution’s main witnesses were two petty criminals, Alfred Bello and Arthur Dexter Bradley, who admitted to being in the area that night with the intent to burgle a nearby factory. Rubin Carter and John Artis strongly claimed their innocence of these murders from the beginning, but it would take 20 long years before Carter would finally be set free and have his indictment dismissed. With Artis being released on bail in 1981.   

Between their original convictions in 1967, and Carter’s release in 1985, his case would become known internationally and made him a focus during the civil rights movement. Rubin's gained the support of many high profile celebrities from the world of both sport and entertainment, including Muhammad Ali and Bob Dylan. Carter achieved a taste of freedom for a couple of months in 1976, when he was let out on bail pending a second trial.  Unfortunately for Carter, the second trial ended with the same verdict as the first, and he was returned to prison.

In “The 16th Round” Carter tells the story of his life and details the injustice of his incarceration. This book, written in 1974, behind the bars of Rahway State Prison in New Jersey, is an intense howl of anger and despair by Carter at his unjust imprisonment for murders that he claims he did not commit. 

The 16th Round is a stark and often brutal tale of Carter’s life from a troubled childhood, through to his time as middleweight contender, when he was, for a time, one of the most feared fighters in the world, onto his conviction and imprisonment for murder. It is this book that fired up much of the campaign that resulted in Rubin’s brief taste of freedom in 1976, until in the run up to his second trial. 

From early childhood, Carter was afflicted with a severe speech impediment that he would not overcome until the age of 18. This seems to have played a strong part in him growing up with an ever-deepening sense of alienation and injustice at the world around him, including his father who was a respected deacon, but could neither understand (physically or emotionally) nor control his young son.  At the age of 11 years old, Rubin was jailed in a juvenile reformatory for stabbing a man (whom Carter describes in this book as trying to sexually assault him.) It is to be the first of a number of incarcerations that featured in Carter’s life. The descriptions of these places is at times quite chilling, and Carter provides some disturbing and enlightening material upon the inhumanity and hopelessness of prison.

Rubin’s boxing career, and the rise of his alter ego “The Hurricane”, is focused on the middle part of this autobiography, with some vivid accounts of some of his most important fights. Yet, it is his experiences with authority and the justice system where this book really excels and transcends from being just another boxing autobiography. Having read "The 16Th Round," it is not hard to see why the civil rights movement took up his case and why his imprisonment was seen by many as one of the greatest injustices of the time. The whole Carter story is mired with controversy, and there are those who dispute much of what he writes within “The 16TH Round”, especially his protestations of innocence.  Even today, a year after Carter’s death, there seems to be almost an ’anti-Carter’ industry, which opposes many of the claims and assertions made by Rubin Carter and his supporters. This debate will probably continue for many years, with both sides passionate about whether “The Hurricane” was truly an innocent man or not.

After he was eventually freed in 1985, Rubin Carter’s story would become the subject of a Hollywood film starring Denzil Washington “The Hurricane”, which gained great acclaim, despite infamously taking some Hollywood liberties with the truth in some parts.

Rubin Carter himself became a powerful voice for the wrongfully imprisoned in the years after he finally achieved his freedom. 

Although there have been other books written by and about Rubin Carter since the original publication of The 16th Round, neither of them succeed in capturing the raw emotions that one can feel literally coming out of the pages at you in Carter’s original autobiography. When all the controversy is swept aside, this book stands on its own merit as a fascinating and visceral study of human nature.  Love, hate, racism, violence, despair, and courage are all to be found in here, in a autobiography that truly goes beyond the world of boxing, and looks into the darkest areas of the human condition.
Copyright © 2015 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to and

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