Sunday, June 12, 2016

Review of "Ali and Liston"

After learning of the death of Muhammad Ali, I naturally wanted to read a book on him to review here. Before hitting the bookstore, however, I scoured the large pile of books on the shelves and on the e-readers and discovered this one that I bought soon after publication but never got around to reading.  Since I am always intrigued by books on boxing and also by the life of Sonny Liston, this was the one to read.  Here is my review of "Ali and Liston." 

“Ali and Liston: The Boy Who Would Be King and the Ugly Bear” by Bob Mee

Boxing, professional, history, race

Publish date:
October 11, 2011

336 pages

4 of 5 stars (very good)


Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) and Charles “Sonny” Liston took very different paths to arrive at the heavyweight championship fight that took place on February 25, 1964 in Miami. What the two men did to reach this point in their boxing careers and their lives is captured in this engrossing book by boxing analyst Bob Mee. 

The research is through and the writing detailed as the reader will learn much about both men, especially Liston as it is universally accepted that he was a very complex character and that the truth about many parts of his life was hard to confirm. Not only does Mee cover Liston’s boxing and his criminal past, there is also coverage of the alleged ties to organized crime that constantly dogged Liston during his boxing days. While there are some books and publications that cover his life more thoroughly, Mee does a credible job of explaining Liston’s life and personality.

He also does the same for Ali, but does not go into the detail that many other sources do as Ali’s life has been chronicled many other times in all forms of media. The writing about Ali is slightly less detailed and covers more of his life in shorter chapters, but still is a good source of information for the casual boxing fan. Just like the writing about the darker aspects of the Liston’s life, the writing about Ali’s involvement with the Nation of Islam and his brash personality is informative and detailed if not revealing new information that hasn’t been reported in other sources.

The book is more about the lives and management of the two men than it is about the actual fights in Miami and Lewistown, Maine. The questions about Liston’s injury in the first fight and the very quick knockdown in the second fight are covered in an objective manner and Mee shows no bias or gives a strong opinion about either of these controversies. The reader will have to make his or her own conclusions from the information given.

This is a book well worth the time to read if one wants to learn more about these two fighters.  If the reader has read other books on them, especially Ali, there won’t be a lot of new information, but Mee does present a fresh view of the fighters and the two bouts that is both informative and entertaining.

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