Boxing Book Review: "Cleveland's Greatest Fighters of All Time"
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing (April 17, 2012) Doghouse Boxing
Jerry Fitch's book, Cleveland's Greatest Fighters of All Time
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing: Jerry Fitch's book, Cleveland's Greatest Fighters of All Time, is a loving tribute to a bygone era. Fitch (James Louis Bivins: The Man Who Would Be Champion) writes passionately about a time when boxing dominated the headlines. His focus is the top fighters from Cleveland.  

The author begins his volume on arguably Cleveland’s most famous fighter, Johnny Kilbane, who held the featherweight championship for eleven years. Kilbane won the title from Abe Atell in 1912. Fitch next tells the tale of heavyweight contender Johnny Risko. Known as the “Cleveland Rubber Man”, Risko fought former heavyweight champions Gene Tunney, Max Schmeling and Max Baer. In his 140 total bouts, Risko fought 13 former champions. Middleweight Paul Pirrone’s rousing style made him a fan favorite throughout his career. Pirrone was the Arturo Gatti of Cleveland fighters. Former top-notch fighters Lloyd Marshall and Joey Maxim also get their due.

Fitch’s chapter on former bantamweight champion and mostly forgotten fighter George Pace is graceful and moving. Pace, born with cataracts over both eyes and serious health problems began to box in 1933. He made his professional debut the following year. After a bumpy start, Pace won the bantamweight title in 1939. By 1943, his health problems worsened. At age 28, Pace should have been in the prime of his career. Fitch writes of his later friendship with Pace, and the admiration he felt for the former champion.

Fitch dedicates the last chapter of his book to the great Jimmy Bivins, a dear friend of the author. Photo's of the era add depth and understanding.

My only criticism is that Cleveland’s Greatest Fighters of All Time reads too quickly. Though only 132 pages, the obvious richness of the text is riveting.

Please contact the author at for information on purchasing a copy

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