While the bulk of my reading is newer books, it is refreshing to read a classic book every now and then. That was the case when I picked up this book on the Ali-Foreman fight in 1974 written by Norman Mailer. Certainly a different perspective on this legendary match. Here is my review of "The Fight."
“The Fight” by Norman
championship, history, classic
17, 2013 (original publication date: 1975)
5 of 5
One of the most amazing and historic boxing matches
in the colorful history of the sport occurred in 1974 when Muhammad Ali surprised
the world and defeated George Foreman to reclaim the world heavyweight title in
Zaire. Much has been written about this fight, including this book by renowned
author Norman Mailer.
Part historical, part play-by-play and part memoir (Mailer
inserts himself in the book), the reader will get an interesting perspective of
this fight and the setting in which it took place. Since the book was
originally published in 1975, one can easily note that there are sections and
passages that would not pass an editor’s eye today, such as when Mailer stated
that “Africa is shaped like a pistol, say the people here, and Zaire is the
trigger.” He also writes most of the book in a masculine point of view, sometimes
a little too much that might make a reader uncomfortable.
At the beginning of the book, he does state that he
is going to do this, so it is not unexpected.
This will also allow the reader, should he or she wish to continue, to
get a different perspective. One part
that I did enjoy was when Norman (how he referred to himself throughout the
book) went jogging with Ali when the boxer was doing road work. While the pace
was slower and he didn’t last the entire length of the run, it was nonetheless something
that is not typically found in other books on this fight.
The best aspect of the book are chapters 13 through
15, the fight itself. Here, the “masculinity”
of Norman’s writing shines best, as the reader will feel like he or she is
ringside. Not just from the punches or reading
about Ali’s famous strategy by leaning on the ropes early, but also from what
is said by each fighter and their corners. There are similar segments earlier in the book
when Mailer visits each fighter’s training and workouts. Knowing how the fight ends before starting
the book, it was amazing to see that some of the popular myths about that
fight, such as that Foreman was not prepared, are simply that – myths, not actual
Some of the early portions of the book seem to drag,
but this is an overall quick read and very entertaining. As long as the reader keeps in mind the
biases and the time period in which this is written, it should be able to be
enjoyed by many readers.