"Four Kings," A Book By George Kimball - A Review

16.08.08 - by James Slater: For those fight fans who have not yet done so, reading the book "Four Kings" by former Boston Herald writer, George Kimball is something this Eastside Boxing contributor strongly suggests.

Having just had the pleasure of a four-day vacation, I spent a little time reading. I'm pleased to say I took along Kimball's fine effort on the legendary Leonard/Hearns/Hagler/Duran rivalry that took place in the decade that was the 1980s.. Boxing fans the world over will already be aware of the great fights "Sugar Ray," "The Hitman," "Hands of Stone" and "The Marvellous One" gave their sport, but for the first time Kimball covers all nine of the welterweight/light-middleweight/middleweight/super-middleweight showdowns in one book. The result is an un-put-down-able 367 pages.

While the description of the ring action is excellent, what I particularly enjoyed about Kimball's book was the number of highly interesting revelations and corrected misinterpretations throughout. For instance: did you know that in the run-up to the September 1981 "Showdown" with Leonard, Hearns, while sparring, broke the jaw of future welterweight world champion Marlon Starling? I didn't. Nor did I know the first epic bout between Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard was almost called off at the eleventh hour due to Duran's pre-fight ECG examination revealing an irregularity. Apparently, "Hands of Stone's" heartbeat had an unexplained arrhythmia, and the doctors were very much concerned.

Ray Arcel, Roberto's sage corner-man, upon hearing this news, was heard to ask, "How can he have a heart problem? He doesn't even have a heart." At any case, the fight went ahead and the reason for the irregularity in Duran's test may have been down to the taking of diet pills. No-one knows for sure, as Kimball writes. There are more fascinating revelations in the book. Going into the 1980 Marvin Hagler-Alan Minter fight held in England, Minter was actually the betting favourite to keep his belt! Quite amazing, in hindsight of what happened in the ring and how easily challenger Hagler dealt with the man who'd foolishly said that "no black man is going to take my title."

The post-fight behaviour of the drunken British fans has been well documented, but even here Kimball reveals more. Vito Antuofermo, a former opponent of both Hagler and Minter, who was in London to commentate on the fight, got caught up in the violence that followed the fight. A quite drunken skin-head made the mistake of attacking the former middleweight champ - and was promptly knocked clean out by a right hand. It may have been the best punch Vito ever threw, Kimball writes in "Four Kings."

It is priceless little gems like these that help make "Four Kings" such an enjoyable read. Throw in the info given on figures such as Ted Kennedy and Tip O'Neil from the political world, Kirk Douglas and Bob Hope from the entertainment world and Joe Louis, Pipino Cuevas and Cleveland Denny and Gaetan Hart from the boxing world, and you have a truly fascinating book. There are, too, some great quotes from each of the four kings themselves, and attention to detail is given to what happened to each all-time great after one of the most famous rivalries in all of boxing had come to an end.

Again, any fight fan who has not yet read "Four Kings" (approx $22.00 from Mainstream Publishing), they are strongly advised to do so.

Article posted on 15.08.2008

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