>Kimball was the lead boxing correspondent for the Boston Herald throughout, what he proposes was, the last great period of middleweight, and arguably any weight, of boxing. It’s hard to disagree with the assertion.
The four ‘Kings’ in question are Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas ‘Hit Man’ Hearns and Roberto Duran. These four guys fought each other 9 times in total during the 1980s and produced some of the greatest fights ever seen by a paying audience. They are still accepted as being the greatest fights in any weight class.
Middleweight boxing is not a popular sport anywhere now, not with the massive commercial sponsorship surrounding football, basketball and other more ad hoc sports that require nothing more than a ball and some people. In fact, no boxing is very popular, not since the loss of Mike Tyson has the world been interested in boxing.
What Kimball does in this book is takes you on a step back in time to the heyday of when fighters like these four could stop the country and, even then, command guaranteed payouts in the millions, more than $10m in some cases. He also treats you to the closest piece of biographical analysis of the fighters, their teams, their management, the politics of the time and the changing face of American sporting life.
The Kings are amazing characters and I wouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself Googling the fights, or looking for more information on them individually. It’s hard to believe, once you’ve read this book, that there’s so little written on them, because Kimball makes the history seem massive. But that’s partly because, as a journalist he was right there. Literally with the boxers at the time in many cases.
He is also able to draw on his relationships with all the other journalists there, the trainers, biographers, historians, promoters, in fact I don’t think that there is really anyone he talks about that isn’t thanked in the acknowledgements as a contributor.
Painting portraits of boxers, from 10 year old kids to 40 year old retirees in a 350 page book is no mean feat, but you get a real feeling of affection and respect for these men, and you feel like you know them. Ray Leonard was the undoubted star, still is, but Hagler’s intensity and fear-inducing persona is right there, Hearn’s dis-connected yet playful countenance and Duran’s animalistic violence are all here to wallow in and enjoy.
As a piece of analysis this is a great book and the tributes paid to it by the back cover reviewers are testament to that. But it’s greatest achievement is as a work of drama, bringing the excitement of a time before Sky and the Internet, when spectacles like the Big Fight were something to live for.