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.
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.
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
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 email@example.com for information on purchasing a copy.
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