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A review of boxing book The Fight by Norman Mailer

You might have heard of the boxing match that The Fight by Norman Mailer concerns itself with. It took place in 1975 in Kinshasa, Zaire, and was given one of the best and most recognisable of any boxing match tag line. I'm not a massive Don King fan, but I take my hat off to him here. You’ve probably guessed what I’m talking about now; The Fight is a book about The Rumble in the Jungle, Muhammad Ali versus George Foreman, one of the most famous boxing matches ever made, and certainly one that did the sport of boxing a lot of good at the time.

The Fight by Norman Mailer takes Ali versus Foreman as its subject matter, and this fight forms the core of the book. However, it does stray from this frequently, and one criticism of the book is that, at times, it can feel a bit ego-centric about Norman Mailer. Certain sections feel like he is saying “this is about me being there, watching the boxing match”, rather than being about the boxing match itself. Some would call this characterisation and will enjoy soaking in Mailer’s personality, but to others, this will be a drag. Still, the book redeems itself in other ways.

If you want a behind the scenes look at Ali and Foreman’s dressing rooms, The Fight for you. If you’ve ever wondered what boxing insiders thought about the fight, and about each boxer’s respective chances, then you should read this. There are great sections that reveal information that I personally didn’t know, with some highlights being Mailer’s writing on Larry Holmes sparring with Ali, and it is great to read Mailer delve into the personality of Drew Brown, a key part of Muhammad Ali’s corner.

The third person style that Mailer chooses to write the book in has thrown some people, and this wouldn’t be a fair review if I didn’t say that some people have mixed opinions on The Fight. Between the third person style and Mailer’s egocentric rambling, some people have been turned off by it. However, more people have carried on, read the whole book and loved it. It is a unique insight into one of the most famous periods in boxing history, and it manages to tell you something fresh and new.

For this reason, I’d recommend The Fight to any boxing fan, and certainly any Muhammad Ali or George Foreman fan. It would really help if you were a Norman Mailer fan too.

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