Three very different boxing books. Each one worthy of your attention.
"Box. The Face of Boxing." Photographs by Holger Keifel and text by Thomas Hauser, published by Chronicle Books. How good can a boxing picture book be without a single action shot? If Keifel is behind the camera, pretty damn good. There are 300 black-and-white photographs in this book, more than 250 of them portraits. It is indeed the face of boxing as Keifel focuses his lens on some of the sports' all-time greats, including Jake LaMotta, Mike Tyson. Roy Jones Jr., Oscar De La Hoya, Joe Frazier, Emile Griffith and Evander Holyfield. What would a collection of boxing photographs be without a shot of Holyfield's half-bitten ear (courtesy of Tyson)? That shot graces the cover of the book. Many of the faces in this book have been molded by Everlast, Reyes and the like. It is an assemblage of men who have caught punches for a living. And the images are fascinating. There are also a few shots of the fighter's main piece of equipment -- the hands. There is an X-ray of Paulie Malignaggi's broken hand and a photo of Tokunbo Olajide's swollen knuckles. In addition to the fighters, Keifel has photographed boxing journalists, judges, trainers, referees, promoters, cutmen and matchmakers. The combination of Keifel's images and Hauser's words produce a knockout. There has been a lot of hype surrounding this book and it really does lives up to the advanced publicity.
"PacMan." This book was written by Gary Andrew Poole and published by Da Capo Press. It is an amazing behind-the-scenes look into the life of Manny Pacquiao. Thus far, no other journalist has delved this deep into the story of Pacquiao. Poole had tremendous access while he traveled the world reporting and observing the fighter. The effort has paid off for the readers because the book is brutally honest. There are no shortage of people willing to talk about the fighter and the best stuff comes not from the characters we see on HBO's "24/7" series, but the Filipinos who have known Pacquiao since the beginning. The most compelling part of the book is the struggle Pacquiao endured early in his life and pro career. The fighter rose from the kind of grinding poverty that usually produces misery and occasionally gives us a world champion. Throughout his childhood, there was no guarantee that PacMan would eat three meals a day. He quit school in sixth grade and moved to Manila as a teenager to launch his career. To his credit, Pacquiao remains extremely loyal to his country and its citizens. For some villages, it appears that the only economy is Pacquiao’s generosity. Poole takes you on a one-of-a-kind ride into the one-of-a-kind life of Manny Pacquiao.
"Tales from the Vault: A celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics," by Lee Groves. This book is self-published by one of the foremost boxing historians around. Groves writes about the fights few people remember, but really should. You won't find Ali-Frazier or Hagler-Hearns in this book. But you will find Matthew Franklin-Richie Kates, Leland Hardy-Ike Padilla and Art Jimmerson-Lenny LaPaglia. Groves analyzes and reports on 100 fights in this book. They are broken into chapters like Brawls, Undercard Treasures and Great Grudge Fights. The research is exhaustive and many of the fights are accompanied by the Punchstat numbers of the bout. There are no pictures in this book, but you won't miss them. Groves paints a pretty good picture with his words. This book is a valuable resource for many of the fights lost to time and anonymity.