“Tooth and Nail: The Making of a Female Fight Doctor” by Linda Dahl
Boxing, memoir, medicine
July 24, 2018
3 ½ of 5 stars (good)
Linda Dahl, an ear, nose and throat physician practicing on New York’s Upper East Side, was not happy with how her life was going. She couldn’t connect with her patients, she had gone through a divorce and felt intimidated around me. So, looking for some other outlet, she applied with the New York State boxing commission to be a fight doctor. Her stories of being one of the few females in a male-dominated sport are told in this memoir.
While her marriage didn’t last, it did have one significant event that changed her life. She watched a match between Shane Mosely and Oscar de La Hoya at the urging of her then-husband, who was a huge boxing fan. Dahl then saw how boxing became a way to connect with others after being inspired by Mosely’s courage and survival instincts in the match. Having felt out of place throughout her medical career, she decided to take a chance by applying to become a fight doctor.
The mood of book changes frequently, as Dahl expresses not only her highs for her times in the ring and her encounters with famous boxers, but also her lows and frequent times of self-doubt. Her stories about her encounters with Mike Tyson and Vladimir Klitschko were the best, and her job performance in the ring was always considered top notch by fighters, trainers and commissioners alike. Moments in the ring and in the presence were the best parts of the book.
However, that isn’t the case as Dahl’s self-doubts about her ability, her communication skills, especially around men, and even her sexuality cast a pall on the book that at times made it feel like too much of a self-pity party. While these parts of her personality were needed to tell her complete story, it felt like this was too much of her life. One way she overcame this was by channeling her “inner Dom” after talking with a female patient at the New York practice. I won’t deny, I was thinking that this might lead the book down a very different path, but it did not do so. Instead, what that lead to was Dahl wearing more revealing clothing to fights at which she worked. That was interesting and did have the desired results for her – she became more assertive, especially around men.
Overall, this is a very interesting memoir that boxing fans will enjoy. It is more than just a book on the sport, though, as readers who are inspired by women who overcome odds to be successful in male-dominated professions will also want to read this book.
Book Format Read: