Sunday, July 26, 2015

TBG Book Review:The Terror of Terre Haute:Bud Taylor

The Boxing Glove Sunday Night Book Review by Peter Silkov

“The Terror Of Terre Haute”
Written by John D. Wright.

“The Terror of Terre Haute” written by John D. Wright is an engaging and vivid account of  the life and times of Bud Taylor, whose big-punching, all-action fighting style made him one of boxing’s most popular fighters during the golden 1920s. 

Bud Taylor was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, on July 22, 1903, into a close-knit, but relatively poor family. Bud found early on that he was gifted with his fists, taking part in many street fights, before he started to box seriously with gloves on.

After beginning his professional boxing career in 1920, at the age of 17-years-old,  Taylor would go on to fight the best bantamweights and featherweights of the 1920s.  In a career, which spanned 11 years from 1920, until he hung his gloves up in 1931, Taylor had around 166 officially recorded contests, which works out to an astonishing rate of one fight every three weeks. 

At a time when boxing’s popularity in America was second only to baseball, Bud Taylor was one of the top fighters during what is now viewed as a ‘golden era’ in boxing. Jack Dempsey was the World heavyweight champion for much of the 1920s, and boxing was big business during a decade where Americans dedicated much of their time to enjoying themselves, with sports being one of the main vehicles used in the nation’s pursuit of recreation.

In an era where the talent was plentiful, and a fighter had to be both tough and talented just to make it into the ranks of contenders, Taylor’s fighting career culminated with him winning the World bantamweight championship in 1927. He would hold onto the title for over a year, until difficulty in making the 118 weight limit resulted in his decision to vacate his championship, and move up to the featherweight class.

“The Terror of Terre Haute” includes some fascinating descriptions of Bud’ s fights with some of the greats of his day, such as Tony Canzoneri, Jimmy McLarnin, and Bushy Graham, to name just three. Author John D. Wright has obviously done a great deal of research on the life and fighting career of Bud Taylor, and the end result is an entertaining portrait of Taylor both as a boxer, and as a man.

Taylor’s career in the ring is meticulously reviewed; the triumphs and the tragedies.  Taylor had the misfortune to see two of his opponents die after they had been defeated by him, and although he was a tiger of a fighter inside the ring, outside he was a thoughtful and sensitive person who absorbed the weight of these tragedies, and never quite came to terms with them. Although he continued to box following these two deaths, they undoubtedly left their mark on him psychologically, both in and out of the ring.

John D. Wright follows Taylor into his post-boxing life, and we see how the man who had been teetotal and terrifically disciplined for most of his fighting career, embraced the high life with an almost self-destructive zeal once his career was over. In just a few years Taylor would see most of his hard won fortune drain away through a mixture of bad investments, fast living, failed marriages and fast friends, along with the ravages of the 1930s depression.

“The Terror of Terre Haute” is a poignant portrait of a man who, while being a ferocious fighter in the ring, was a gentlemanly and sensitive person outside of the ring. It is also a fascinating portrait of the world of boxing generally in the 1920s and the 1920s themselves. 

In addition to a number of rare photos throughout its pages, this book also has Bud Taylor’s full professional boxing record in the back pages.

Terre Haute welcomes Bud Taylor home.
This book is a must for those who are interested in fighters of the past. Bud Taylor is revealed as a truly great fighter who fought in an era where a fighter really had to be something very special to win a title of any type, but especially a world title. It underlines, more than anything else, how boxing has changed since those days. “The Terror of Terre Haute”  looks back at a time when boxing was one of the most powerful and popular sports in the world, and its champions were household names, and admired wherever they went.

“The Terror of Terre Haute” was first printed in 2008  and published by Dog Ear Publishing.

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

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

TBG Book Review: The Big If: Johnny Owen

The Boxing Glove Sunday Night Book Review By Peter Silkov 

"The Big If: The Life And Death Of Johnny Owen"
Written By Rick Broadbent

“The Big If: The Life And Death Of Johnny Owen” is the story of Johnny Owen, Merthyr’s “Matchstick Man,” who rose from his humble beginnings in a council house in Merthyr, to win the Welsh, Commonwealth, British, and European Bantamweight titles. Owen was an unlikely boxer, both in looks, and personality. He was softly spoken, painfully shy, and self-effacing, and his 5’ foot 6" inch frame was almost emaciated. Yet, when he was inside a boxing ring with his gloves on, Owen became someone else, he was a confident and aggressive fighter, a marvel of perpetual motion, who refused to take a backward step in his fights, and never seemed to tire. Physically, Owen looked like a gust of wind could blow him over, rather than someone who would stand toe-to-toe with the best fighters in the world at his weight; yet, his skeletal frame housed an almost frightening strength, determination, and fitness. Although he lacked a big knockout punch, he would overwhelm and wear his opponents down with the intensity, and tirelessness of his attacks.

Owen’s idol was the legendary Jimmy Wilde, also a Welshman, who ruled the Flyweight division in the 1910s and early 1920s, and who had a similarly skeletal frame like Johnny.
“The Big If” is the story of Johnny’s unlikely rise to boxing stardom that culminated in him challenging Lupe Pintor for the WBC world bantamweight championship on September 19, 1980.  It was a fight that would cost Johnny Owen his life. After shocking the largely Mexican crowd in Los Angeles by going toe-to-toe with their idol Pintor, Owen fell into a coma after being knocked out in the 12th round. Owen would linger in a coma for almost two months, before dying on November 4, 1980, at 24 years old.

The title of this book is taken from the final entry Johnny made in his dairy on the night before his fight with Pintor ‘Hope everything comes right on the night. If Only. It’s a big if.’

Rick Broadbent paints a vivid picture of Owen’s early life, and his closeness to his family, especially his father Dick who had first taught Johnny to box, along with his brothers, in the front room of their Merthyr council house. There is also a second thread in this book, focusing on the life of Johnny’s opponent on that fateful night of September 19, 1980. Lupe Pintor had a horrific upbringing in his native Mexico, where he endured extreme poverty and regular beatings from his abusive father, and found himself living on the streets by the age of 8 years old.
This is a very powerful bittersweet story in which we see two young men who are striving for better lives, totally dedicated to the harshest, yet, most viscerally rewarding sport in the world. Their fate and bodies collided together one September night, changing their lives, and the lives of the people around them forever.

Some have viewed Owen’s life as a tragedy, but that is to ignore the tremendous achievements of his comparatively brief but impressive boxing career.  Up until his fight with Pintor, Owen had never been floored once in all of his 124 amateur contests and 27 previous professional fights. He was, right up until his final fatal fight, a true little iron man.
Ultimately, despite the sadness of Johnny‘s death, The Big If is an uplifting experience. It says a lot about the power of the human spirit and the strength of love and forgiveness.  On November 2, 2002, a statue of Johnny Owen was erected in Merthyr and the person who unveiled it was Lupe Pintor. Months before, Johnny’s Father, Dick, had flown to Mexico to meet Pintor for the first time since Johnny’s death. It was a journey of closure and forgiveness.

Perhaps one of the most poignant things to come through in this book is how deeply, and enduringly, Johnny Owen touched so many people, not just those who he knew on a day-to-day basis in Wales, but many who had never met him, but simply heard of his exploits in the ring.
Ironically, it became known that Johnny had been born with an unusually strong jawbone, but a weak skull. His fatal injury could have occurred at any time during his amateur or professional boxing career, or even in an accident or incident totally removed from boxing.

Indeed, with the advances in medicine and the introduction of regular cat scans for skull thickness tests for boxers and budding boxers in recent years, the harsh truth is that, if Johnny was starting out on his boxing career today he would not be allowed to take up the sport because of his abnormally thin skull.

It is a haunting and realization.

The thought of Johnny Owen without boxing is completely foreign, as Owen was as much a born fighter as a man can be, and boxing not only defined Johnny, it also gave him a way to express himself.
Rick Broadbent has written a powerfully moving book about Johnny Owen, it is a story of courage, triumph, and tragedy.
Ultimately, Johnny’s life is not a tragedy; he achieved too much and touched so many people in such a positive way that is story his truly inspirational.  The underlying message of Johnny’s life and “The Big If” is the good that can come out of tragedy and how Johnny made such an indelible mark during his short life, that he is unlikely ever to be forgotten.

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

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

TBG Book Review: Irish Champion Peter Maher

 The Boxing Glove Sunday Night Book Review By Peter Silkov

"The Irish Champion Peter Maher:  The Untold Story of Ireland's Only World Heavyweight Champion and the Records of the Men He Fought"  Written by Matt Donnellon

This is the spectacular story of an Irishman who grew up in the poverty of Galway, and Dublin, in the latter part of the 19th century, but fought his way out of poverty with his fists. Peter Maher was one of Ireland’s earliest sporting celebrities and one of the most popular fighters of his time. Standing a little less than six feet tall and weighing about 175 to 180 pounds at his peak, Maher was one of the top heavyweight fighters in the world throughout the 1890s, and at one point in 1895, had a claim to being the Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Maher was an extremely colourful and charismatic character, both in the ring, and outside of it. As a fighter, he was all-action and little science. He was a slugger with a big punch, whose fights were, more often than not, toe-to-toe blood baths that thrilled the spectators of the time. Outside of the ring, Maher was a jovial sociable fellow, who was more inclined to spend his time in bars and clubs than in the gym training.  Early in his career, Maher was fond of a drink, and as time went on and he found fame and money, this side of his life style became more of a problem. Unsurprisingly, given his dislike of the rigors of training, Maher’s boxing career was very much a roller coaster ride, with him either winning via a knockout or being knocked out himself. However, generally at his peak, Maher’s punching power proved too much for all, but the very best fighters. During a career that ran from 1887 to 1913, Maher faced nearly all of the leading heavyweights of the 1890s and 1900s. Amongst the top names that he faced were, Peter Jackson, Gus Lambert, Jack Fallon, Joe Godfrey, Bob Fitzsimmons, Joe Goddard, Denver Ed Smith, George Godfrey, Frank Craig, Joe Butler, Gus Ruhlin, Frank Slavin, Joe Choynski, Tom Sharkey, Ed Dunkhorst, Joe Kennedy, Philadelphia Jack O’Brien, Kid Carter, George Gardner, Morris Harris, Jeff Clarke, Marvin Hart, and Kid McCoy.

Bob Fitzsimmons Vs. Peter Maher
In this book, Donnellon has brought back to life a fighter who was one of the most popular and famous of his time, yet, has almost been forgotten by most non-Irish boxing fans today. Maher’s life reads very much like a Hollywood film, with Maher going from being an unknown, to achieving fame and wealth, with a certain amount of notoriety included. Donnellon has done a great job in researching his subject, and goes into depth concerning both the strengths and flaws of Maher’s character. 

Most of Maher’s fights are retold in round by round detail, and his biggest fights include excellent details about the fight’s build up and aftermath. We are also given good character sketches of Maher’s opponents. In the back pages of this book, we are also given the full fighting records of both Peter and all of his opponents.

Peter Maher Vs. Tom Sharkey
Peter comes across as a loveable rogue, who loved to fight, but didn’t enjoy confining himself to the rigors and deprivations of training. Donnellon draws a fascinating picture, not only of Maher and his life and career, but also the characters and lives of his opponents and other fighters of his time. 

Maher seems to have been one of those people who had a knack of finding himself in peculiar, and sometimes hazardous, situations, and it often seems that Maher was at his safest within a boxing ring. 

During his hey day, Maher encountered some of the most famous and influential people of his time, such as Teddy Roosevelt, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Judge Roy Bean, and John L Sullivan, amongst many others.

Having got acquainted with Peter’s character, the reader will probably not be overly surprised to find out that after all of his high-grossing fights and fame, Peter ended up penniless in later life, and was forced to take a series of mundane jobs in order to survive. Yet, Maher never seems to have lamented his dwindling fortunes, or regretted anything about his fighting career. For all of his flaws, both as a man and as a fighter, you finish this book with a new found respect and admiration of Maher, both as a fighter and a man.

Peter Maher and Mickey Walker
If there is one quibble that I have concerning this book it is the presence of a number of spelling mistakes or typos throughout the book. However, they do not take away from the underlining merit of the book. This book is a must for anyone who considers themselves a student of boxing’s rich history, and it is a great opportunity to become reacquainted with one of Ireland’s greatest sons.

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

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Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Boxing Glove Book Review: Fat City

The Boxing Glove Sunday Night Book Review By Peter Silkov
“Fat City”    Written by Leonard Gardner

This week on The Boxing Glove, we are looking at a boxing novel, rather than a biography or autobiography. “Fat City” is perhaps the greatest boxing novel ever written. Boxing in fiction is too often a stereotype, with plenty of action, but cardboard characters. Fat City avoids this failing with a strong line of characters, whom Gardner brings to life with a simplistic brilliance. Fat City is a boxing novel, yet, boxing is not its main theme, and the novels main theme is its characters inner lives and their dreams and fears as they try to make it. This is a novel about people trying to survive the blows of life, and come out the other side still in one piece, something that, by the end of "Fat City" they inevitably fail to do. 

Published for the first time in 1969, Fat City is set in Stockton, California, and Leonard Gardner builds an atmosphere of hot and steamy streets, sleazy alcohol stained bars, and noisy, sweaty, claustrophobic gyms. The main characters of the novel are Billy Tully and Ernie Munger, whose paths cross as their lives and boxing careers are traveling in opposite directions. Tully is a semi-retired boxer who, though not yet 30 years old, has already exhausted his youthful talent and optimism, and now lives in an alcoholic twilight world of late night bars, run down motels, and menial jobs, while dreaming about the fleeting success and wealth that he once had.  Ernie Munger is just 18 years old, and almost a polar opposite of the grizzled and world-weary Tully. The two meet for the first time in the local YMCA, where both have gone to work out, and end up having a short lives sparring session, which ends when Tully pulls a muscle. Munger is shown to be a ’natural’ even though he has yet to have a fight, and with Tully’s encouragement, he goes to the Lido Gym, and hooks up with Tully’s old trainer Ruben Luna. The main strand of the novel’s plot follows Munger and Tully as their lives travel in opposite directions. While Munger is just starting out in his boxing career, Tully is seen attempting to comeback to a fighting career, which is already past its period of hope and potential.

As the novel progresses, we learn about the people around Tully and Munger, and how in their way, they are all trying to survive and get by the best way they know.  The boxing scenes in this book are actually quite brief, yet, this seems to make them more powerful. There are very good insights into Tully and Munger’s inner thoughts as the book progresses. Despite seeming to have youth and potential on his side in most aspects of his life, Munger is revealed to be consumed with fears over the way his life is going, including his relationship with his girlfriend, who soon becomes his wife. Munger feels as if his life is drifting upon some preplanned course in which he has no real power. His youthful energy and optimism is already becoming coloured at times by a feeling of his helplessness over his fate.

Tully is constantly veering from trying to resurrect himself to then turning back to his self-destructive drinking. Tully yearns for companionship in an effort to get over the breakdown of his marriage, but his relationship with Oma, an alcoholic woman whom he meets in a bar, proves to be yet another thing that keeps Tully trapped within his negative downward spiral.

It is often said about boxing that its popularity is due to it being a microcosm of life, this is the reason for the power of this novel; it is about boxing, but about much more. It is about the human condition. How we are all striving to survive and succeed, trying to form relationships and make them work, and at the same time, trying to figure out if we are going in the right direction.

As the novel develops, we see Ernie attempting to succeed in his fledgling boxing career, while Billy Tully attempts to return to the ring and recapture the success and happiness, which it held for him in the past.

In 1972, Fat City was developed into a film, directed by John Houston, and starring Stacey Keach as Billy Tully, and Jeff Bridges as Ernie Munger. Houston was a huge boxing fanatic, who had boxed himself, and he saw this as a boxing story that needed to be told. The film is a masterful rendition of the novel, with Leonard providing the screenplay, much of the film’s dialogue is taken straight from the original novel. It is fitting that Fat City is able to inspire such great performances from its cast. In addition to Keach and Bridges, Susan Tyrell gives a powerful performance as Oma, Tully’s alcoholic girlfriend. 

Houston also filled his cast with genuine boxers and ex-boxers, including Art Aragon, who plays Tully and Munger’s trainer ‘Babe’ and Sixto Rodriguez, who plays ‘Lucero’ who is Tully’s comeback opponent. Also in the film are Curtis Cokes, Ruben Navarro, Billy Walker, and Al Silvani. Cokes was the former World welterweight champion and was still an active fighter when he appeared in Fat City. He actually has an important role as Tully’s rival for Oma‘s affections. 

The main difference between the novel and film versions of “Fat City” is the conclusions, which of course we will not go into here, so as not to spoil it, but it is definitely worth experiencing both the novel and the film, as they both compliment each other.

In many ways, the novel “Fat City” comes across as a play, there is that kind of atmosphere about it, which certainly helps it when it is transferred to the big screen. 

When people talk about the greatest boxing films they invariably list films such as “Rocky” or “Raging Bull” or more recently “Million Dollar Baby” and “The Fighter.”
However, for an in depth down to earth, realistic character portrait of boxers, as real people, there are few films with come close to “Fat City.” 

Both as a novel and as a film, Fat City is something special, simple, and profound, without too much self consciousness about it. It is best to start with; the book and then move onto the film version, then you will really appreciate how the novel has evolved into the film. 

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

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