Sunday, May 24, 2015

Book Review: The Real Rockys-A History of the Golden Age of Italian Americans In Boxing 1900-1955

The Boxing Glove Sunday Night Book Review by Peter Silkov

The Real Rocky’s: A History of the Golden Age of Italian Americans In Boxing 1900-1955      
Written by Rolando Vitale

Rocky Graziano
The name “Rocky” has become almost inextricably linked with boxing. Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” films brought home the relevance of the name to the wider public, but the name, and Rocky’s Italian heritage goes back much further into boxing’s golden history. It is this subject, which Rolando Vitale tackles with such depth in “The Real Rockys: A History of the Golden Age of Italian Americans in Boxing 1900 - 1955.”  The author looks at the role of the Italian-American in boxing during a time when boxing was booming with a multitude of clubs and daily shows, the like’s of which today’s boxing fans can only sit and think about with wonder.

Casper Leon
The book is an eye opener into how many excellent Italian-American boxers there were during this period of time.  The fact that the Italian-American fighter prospered during boxing’s boom time, when the amount of active fighters was at its highest, and the depth of talent at its deepest, serves to illustrate just how prevalent the Italian-American became in boxing.

Set out in these pages is a veritable encyclopaedia of information about the greatest exploits of the Italian American in boxing. Every thing that a boxing historian would want to find, from fascinating statistics to individual biographies upon the most outstanding of the Italian-American boxers, is in this book.

One of the welcomed aspects of this book is that the huge amount of information which is contains is set out in a reader friendly way. The book is divided into two sections; the first part consists of a straightforward narrative by Rolando Vitale, in which he analyzes the place of the Italian-American, not only in boxing, but also within American society itself.  Vitale delves into how the Italian immigrants had to fight for their survival in America and the roots of boxing in Italy. It is very interesting to read about the social upheaval of the late 1890s and early 1900s, and how the Italian vied for survival with immigrants of different nationalities, with this bitter competition eventually going from the streets into the boxing rings.

Young Zulu Kid
Vitale takes us all the way from the earliest Italian immigrants who were beginning to ply their trade in the American boxing rings, right up to the mid 1950s and beyond, where increased social mobility and education eventually see’s the numbers of Italian-American boxers dwindle to a trickle. Today, the Italian-American is more likely to be found in the business side of boxing, either in promoting, management or broadcasting.

The second part of this book is a collection of appendices, which contains a wealth of fascinating statistical information, broken up into twenty-one different chapters.  Included in this section is a chapter devoted to short, but informative biographies of 100 outstanding Italian-American boxers of 1900 to 1955.  The scope and variety of the other chapters in this section is impressive, including subjects such as; Italian Americans and prize money in professional boxing 1900-to-1955 (chapter 2), Italian American prize-fighters using Irish and anglicized names, 1900-to-1955 (chapter 4), Italian American world boxing title claimants 1900-to-1955 (chapter 8), Italian Americans in world title bouts 1900-to-1955 (chapter 10), Italian Americans in world top 20 rankings 1924-to-1955, (chapter 12), and, inter-ethnic rivalry in world title fights 1900-to-1955 (chapter14).

While the first section of this book is an engrossing study of the history of Italian Americans, not just in boxing, but also in American society itself, it is the second section of the book, which will draw in the boxing fanatic again and again, in order to study the multitude of historical facts and figures that it holds. This is a book that is likely to interest both the boxing historian and the more relaxed boxing fan, who is interested in discovering a wealth of information about a part of boxing history that has been so far surprisingly neglected.  “The Real Rockys” reveals just how prominent the Italian American once was inside the boxing ring, and how these fighters played an integral role at a time when boxing was at its most popular and powerful. This is certainly a welcome addition for any serious boxing collector, entertaining, informative, and at times surprisingly enlightening.  

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

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