Out of the Past

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HARD TIMES: The Mystery of the Jack Dempsey-Jess Willard Fight

And you? What would you do? If you stuffed your battered shoes with newspapers as a child? If you wore the same shirt to school week after week? If your parents picked up and lit out in a covered wagon from one bleak hinterland to another? If you knocked on doors looking for handouts? If you ate rotting banana skins from trash barrels? If you slept nights in hobo jungles and spent your days in the depths of a gloomy copper mine? If you had Doc Kearns as your right hand man, lopsided grin, hat brim askew, diamond stickpin glittering even on sunless days? What would you have done?

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RED ARROW: The Mysterious Death of Sonny Liston

Las Vegas, Nevada, 1970. His life was a firetrap; his days were dry tinder. A small spark here or there—some ash from a cigarette, perhaps—and the whole ramshackle hovel would go up in roaring flames. You could shovel all the sand in the world on it, hose it down with the entire Atlantic Ocean—nothing was going to stop that conflagration. In the brittle Las Vegas heat—sunstroke conditions—Charles “Sonny” Liston, ex-heavyweight champion of the world, roamed from one dark quarter to another. He was wandering through a dangerous netherworld, one still two decades away from turning into a tourist trap where outlandish replicas of the Pyramids and the Statue of Liberty dotted the landscape. No, during those last lost years of Sonny Liston, the Vegas strip was still dominated by garish neon signs and billboards announcing the names of extinct hotels, burlesque clubs, and casinos: The Dunes, The Thunderbird, The Hacienda, The Flamingo. And behind that gaudy façade was an Open City for the lowdown and dirty. Sonny Liston, alas, was in his element.

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Joe Frazier: 1944-2011

In the ring, Frazier embodied the hard-earned dignity unique to prizefighters who cannot- or will not- separate boxing from such concepts as honor, pride and respect. “I guess you could say I was just about always the underdog,” Frazier told the Philadelphia Daily News. “But all that just makes me work harder. It makes me love harder.”

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The Catastrophist: The Troubled World of Don Jordan

Read about the turbulent life and strange career of 1950s welterweight champion Don Jordan, who ran with street gangs as a kid, partied with mobsters, and carried a bow and arrow with him through the streets of Los Angeles.

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A Second Life: The Career of Pat Valentino

1940s California matinee idol Pat Valentino, product of an abusive childhood, never thought he would amount to anything, and the tough breaks he got in life were mirrored in his hard luck boxing career. When he finally got a shot at the heavyweight championship of the world, it cost him more than anyone would have imagined possible.

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Detour Ahead: Georgie Abrams & The Middleweights of the 1940s

Georgie Abrams was a gifted fighter who went tooth and nail against some of the best fighters of his era: Tony Zale, Marcel Cerdan, and Sugar Ray Robinson, who once admitted that Abrams was the toughest opponent of his career. Among the fighters Abrams defeated were: Ernie Vigh, Tommy Yarosz, Lou Brouillard, Cocoa Kid, Coley Welch and Steve Belloise. He also went 3-for-3 against Billy Soose.

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Nightmare In Dreamland: When Ace Hudkins Crashed Coney Island

Ace Hudkins, described by Irving Rudd as “a swashbuckling, rollicking, red-headed pug whose rip-tear, slambang, slashing style of of slugging earned for him hundreds of thousands of dollars and a reputation as one of the most vicious fighters in ring history,” was a major drawing card in California during The Golden Age of Sports and was known for his merciless style in the ring. In 1926 Hudkins traveled to New York City to take on undefeated teenage sensation Ruby Goldstein in Coney Island Stadium.

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Dark Mirror: When Max Baer Met Ben Foord

The night madcap Max Baer faced his double in the ring, tragic South African playboy Ben Foord.

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Strange Days: The Johnny Saxton Story

The life and times of Johnny Saxton, mob-controlled welterweight who went from the championship of the world to an insane asylum.

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¡FENÓMENO! How Jose Basora Spanked Jake LaMotta, Smacked Fritzie Zivic, Spooked Out Sugar Ray Robinson & Wound Up Nearly Forgotten

The incredible career of one of the first Puerto Rican stars in boxing.

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No Exit: The Short Life & Strange Career of Eddie Machen

Eddie Machen was a gifted heavyweight who never reached his potential because of a shaky psychological make-up. He died, in mysterious circumstances, at the age of 40.

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Enforcer: The Life & Crimes of Gus Dorazio

Read about the career of strong arm Philadelphia heavyweight Gus Dorazio, who wisecracked his way through a brutal career that culminated in a title shot against Joe Louis and inspired the creation of Rocky Balboa.

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Nasty, Brutish, Short: Al Palzer & The White Hopes

Lumbering Al Palzer was one of the first White Hopes to emerge in the wake of Jack Johnson. Palzer was not much of a fighter, but his career is nearly Kafkaesque in its bizarre particulars.

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Lightning Express: The Quick Rise & Even Quicker Fall of Al Singer

Al Singer was one of the biggest gate attractions in boxing during the late 1920s and early 1930s. His tumultuous–and colorful–career was tainted by gangland links, and his promise as a fighter was cut short by one of the malignant gods of boxing: Fate.

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Enough for All of Us: On Bill Gallo

Along with his Daily News cohort Vic Ziegel, who died last year, Gallo was the last of the old-school newspapermen to write regularly about boxing in New York City. Sure, Pete Hamill would come around once in a while, Jimmy Breslin and Dave Anderson, too, but it was Ziegel and Gallo who, during their last remaining years, kept the fight game alive at the Daily News. His reminiscences and anecdotes were glimpses into an age when prizefighters were still mass appeal heroes and his love of boxing can be seen in the near tenderness with which he often wrote about them.

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