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Boxing Bookshelf 5, a pair of heavyweights

FLOYD PATTERSON: Patterson was living in Mount Vernon

FLOYD PATTERSON: Patterson was living in Mount Vernon in 1954 when he became the youngest man ever to win the world heavyweight title. Patterson, who died in 2006, lived the final years of his life in New Paltz, where he is buried. (Credit: Getty Images)

"Floyd Patterson, The Fighting Life of Boxing's Invisible Champion," by W.K. Stratton (Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt). Stratton does a wonderful service to the great Floyd Patterson in this book. Patterson was heavyweight champion of the world at a time when being heavyweight champion of the world meant so much more than it does today. He fought in Stadiums. The bouts were front page news in the New York Times. The point is, SO MUCH has been written about Patterson.

Stratton takes us deeper.

Most people know that Patterson wore a fake beard as a disguise after losing to Sonny Liston. But did you know that, as an Olympian at the 1952 Games, he smuggled food out of the Olympic Village to give it to the needy?

The story of the troubled youth, sent to reform school, emerging as a world class fighter is almost a cliche. But this book goes further than the stereotypes and the perceptions of the neighborhoods that often produce the world's best fighters. If Patterson's journey to boxing was typical, his childhood persona was anything but typical. Those early chapters alone make the book an important read.

The story eventually comes around to the familiar cast of boxing legends - Cus D'Amato, Ingemar Johansson, Sonny Liston and Muhammad Ali.  But again, Stratton opens the blinds further on these rich characters. And while Ali is rightfully the boxer most readily identified with the Civil Rights movement, race relations were a large part of Patterson's career. Perhaps not as obvious as it was with Ali, but it was there nonetheless.

The publishers provided a QnA sheet in which the author talks about Patterson.

"Much about Patterson had been lost in the glare of Muhammad Ali's career," said Stratton. "Yet his story is utterly compelling; his overcoming childhood trauma, his relationship with his manager Cus D'Amato, his relationships with rivals Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston. I felt as if it was time to bring Floyd back into the light."

"Rocky Spirit," by Felice Cantatore (iUniverse). This book is a fun ride. First-time author Cantatore parallels his life to the six-film Rocky franchise. The story starts when he first becomes captivated with the film as an 11-year-old boy and ends when he climbs into the boxing ring for some toe-to-toe heavyweight action.  

Perhaps the crowning achievement, though, of this journey is how Cantatore put himself onto the set of "Rocky Balboa" working as an extra during the final fight scene in the final film of the series. This book is equal parts memoir, inspirational tale and self help book. The author uses Rocky Balboa as the inspiration and motivation to achieve his goals in life. It's worked for him. In fact, when asked what he hoped people came away with after reading the book, Cantatore responded:

"Anything is possible with a puncher's chance. Always keep punching and follow what is in your heart to reach your dreams. It starts in your mind, always go the distance."

Cantatore is a firm believer in the Law of Attraction and his attraction to the Balboa character -- a classic underdog -- has seemingly helped him in every facet of his life. You don't have to be a fan of "Rocky" or Sylvester Stallone to like this book. If you can relate to the underdog, you'll get it.

Tags: Floyd Patterson , book review , boxing bookshelf , Rocky , Felice Cantatore

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