Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Interview with George Thomas Clark - and another giveaway!

I wish to express my gratitude to Mr. Clark here before getting to the interview for two things.  Not only for taking the time to answer a few questions about his book "Death in the Ring" but also for his generosity.   He has agreed to give away a copy to a lucky reader of the blog!   In order to enter, either leave a comment at the end of the interview here or on the review of "Death in the Ring."  If you are a boxing fan, it is a book you should read as it is not only entertaining, it is very possible you will learn about a few fighters that you probably didn't know.   The drawing for the book will be held May 11.  Good luck to everyone!

George Thomas Clark

1. Why did you decide to write about boxing history that included some obscure fighters?

Some of the boxers in Death in the Ring may be little known today but almost all were prominent, even heroic, during their time. Peter Jackson, for example, is known only to boxing fans who are interested in history. When he fought more than a hundred years ago in Australia, however, he was a national figure, and his status increased after his first extended trip to the United States and England. John L. Sullivan spent years ducking Jackson, claiming he was defending the honor and purity of whites and after Jackson fought a marathon draw against Jim Corbett, Gentleman Jim never wanted to give him a rematch.

Battling Siki is perhaps the most obscure and tragic figure in this book. He astonished France by knocking out national idol Georges Carpentier but, due to alcoholism and bizarre behavior, was blacklisted in France and had to come to the United States to get good fights. Here he was confronted by tough and talented boxers far more disciplined than he, and he lost more than he won. His drinking worsened and he ended up getting a bullet in the gut in Hell’s Kitchen while still in his twenties.

2. How difficult was it to write stories about boxers in the first person, especially those from the early 20th century such as Jack Johnson and Jack Dempsey?

It was difficult to write in the first person but probably no more so than the third person. I’m just more comfortable using the first. No matter what voice you use, you have to do a lot of reading, and video watching if available, to learn what the fighter was like personally as well as professionally. Once you know the character, you slowly let him write his own story. There’s a lot of information about Dempsey and Jack Johnson, and good videos, too, so I felt I understood both men in and out of the ring.

3. With the rise in popularity of such sports as mixed martial arts, what do you see as the future for the sport? Will there be another “fight of the century” to draw much attention like the Pacquio-Mayweather bout?

I’m a baby boomer and, like most people through the ages, most attached to the heroes of my youth. My idea of a fight of the century is Ali v. Frazier, Foreman v. Ali, or Leonard v. Hearns or Duran. Manny and Floyd are great fighters, but can anyone really contend that Pacquiao would survive long against Hearns? Using his spectacular right hand, The Hit Man would pulverize Manny. And I think boxer-punchers like Sugar Ray Robinson and Leonard were just as slick as Floyd, and much better sluggers. Floyd would be competitive but he wouldn’t have enough against those guys. I do think Floyd would decision Duran without much trouble. Wilfred Benitez barely got touched by Duran, and no reliable person is going to claim Benitez was as good as Mayweather.

Mixed martial arts will continue to grow in popularity but boxing will maintain a reasonably prominent perch. There’s great artistry in landing and avoiding punches. There’s also great danger, and people are more concerned now about injuries in sports. Even the big daddy, football, has lost more competitors in recent years than any other sport. Basketball is the emerging sport.

4. Tell us about your boxing experience – whether as a boxer, a fan of a certain fighter, or if you just enjoy writing about it.

Like most boxing fans, I slipped on the gloves a few times as a kid, and like most boxing fans I quickly discovered I didn’t like getting hit and returned to the basketball court.

Muhammad Ali is my all-time favorite boxer and probably my favorite athlete and sports personality. No one brought as much drama and excitement into the ring. Ali was so charismatic his pre-fight antics were often more entertaining than many bouts then and now. Sugar Ray Leonard is my second favorite fighter. And despite my misgivings about him against great welterweights, including Mayweather, who I expect to win by decision, Manny Pacquiao is my favorite current fighter. He’s exciting, aggressive, and talented.

5. What future books can readers expect from you? Do you have any work in progress currently?

I just finished a book titled Paint it Blue,  (http://www.amazon.com/Paint-Blue-George-Thomas-Clark-ebook/dp/B00UKXD22A/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8) which explores the lives of painters – Picasso, Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and many others, not all famous, in the same first-person style I used in Death in the Ring.

6. Feel free to add anything here that you would like readers to know.

Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao have won many titles and mountains of money. They’ve also been fighting professionally for about twenty years. That’s enough. I’d like to urge both of them to retire. They’re still good fighters. That’s not the point. Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson were still good fighters long after they should have quit. They suffered by staying too long.

You can find out more about Mr. Clark at his Web site:


1 comment:

  1. Very interesting interview of a wonderful writer. Mr. Clark has developed a distinctive style of writing that puts him into the mind of his characters and their associates. This allows him great freedom to explore their personalities and peccadillos. He puts this freedom to very good use via dialog and plot. A very satisfying read, thank you The Guy Who Reviews Sports Books and thank Mr. Clark for his expanding collection of writing.