Sunday, August 2, 2015

TBG Book Review: Tail of the Gator: The Craig Bodzianowki Story

The Boxing Glove Sunday Night Book Review by Peter Silkov
“Tale Of The Gator: The Craig Bodzianowski Story”
Written by  Mike Fitzgerald

“Tale of the Gator” is the inspiring autobiography of Craig Bodzianowski.  During the early 1980s, Bodzianowski was a rising cruiserweight prospect, unbeaten in 13 contests, and just about to break into contendership for the world championship.  He was seen as a very marketable fighter, with the kind of crowd-pleasing fighting style and engaging out-of-the-ring personality that promoters are always so eager to discover.

Then on May 31, 1984, Craig’s fate took a devastating turn when he was involved in a serious crash on his motorcycle. The accident left Bodzianowski with a crushed right leg, and doctors gave him the choice of enduring numerous operations in an effort to save the leg, or else, have it amputated just below the knee.  He was told bluntly that whichever option he took, his boxing career was most certainly over.

Bodzianowski decided on amputation, figuring that he would have a better chance of recovering more mobility with a prosthetic, rather than his severely damaged real limb.  While still in his hospital bed, Craig vowed to himself, his friends, and family around him that he would not only walk again, but that he would fight again in a boxing ring and resume his boxing career.

What followed was one of the greatest comebacks boxing has ever seen.  Bodzianowski did not just return to the ring for one more fight. He picked up his career from where it had been cruelly derailed, and in a plot turn worthy of the Rocky films, fought his way to a shot at the World cruiserweight championship.

This is an intense and emotional book about one man’s determination not to let a cruel twist of fate keep him from following his dreams.

Bodzianowski was born on February 7, 1961, in Chicago, and “Tale of the Gator” gives an entertaining account of his colourful family life, and his early years growing up.  It seems that life round the ‘Gator’ was never boring.

Mike Fitzgerald does a great job in this book of keeping things focused and smooth.  It races along, much like one of Bodzianowski’s fights.  There are many twists and turns along the way.  This is one of those books that once you start to read it, you don’t want to stop until you have finished it.  It is a gripping human-interest story, and the reader will probably be surprised that someone in Hollywood hasn’t bought the rights to this biography with the intentions of making it into a film.  But then again, isn’t that often the way with the film industry.  The greatest real life stories are often overlooked by the suits in Hollywood.

Craig himself comes across in these pages as an extremely intelligent and brave individual, who never allows himself to be beaten by the many obstacles, which appear before him, both before and after he loses his leg.  Boxing is well known as a tough and dangerous endeavour, where you often need more than a little luck, as well as courage and determination, to succeed.  “Tale of the Gator” gives us a fascinating insight into the world of boxing, inside the gyms, and the background politics that the fan does not see on a TV screen. As much as Craig wanted to carry on his boxing career after his accident, there were other people in boxing, some of them high profile, who wanted to see his comeback stopped. 

In the end, this is one of the most engrossing and entertaining boxing autobiographies that you will come across.  There is a nice collection of photos in the middle of the book. One thing that is sadly missing is Craig’s boxing record, but this of course, that can be found easily these days on the Internet.

Craig, himself, tells the story in the first person, and this structure works well, especially with someone like Craig, who really does have an interesting tale to tell.
The narrative is interspersed with interviews with various people from Craig’s life, ranging from family members, to friends, fellow boxers, and former opponents, all of which add to the books overall depth and insight.

Strangely, however, “Tale of the Gator” seems to be out of print at the moment and copies can be hard to find, but they are out there. This is definitely one of those books that is well worth searching out. It deserves to be read, and the memory of Craig Bodzianowski, who sadly died of a heart attack in 2013, deserves to be kept alive.  This is a life affirming tale about what is possible when you decide that you will keep fighting to reach your goals and dreams in life, even when it seems that luck and fate is against you.

The true champions in this world are the people who never give up and never give in to whatever the world throws at them.

“Tale Of The Gator: The Craig Bodzianowski Story” by Mike Fitzgerald was first published in 2000, and can be found second hand if you look hard enough.

Mike Fitzgerald also co-wrote the biographies of heavyweight legends Ken Norton “Going the Distance” and Ernie Shavers “Welcome to the Big Time.” 

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

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