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Jersey Joe Walcott: A Boxing Biography by…

Jersey Joe Walcott: A Boxing Biography

by James Curl

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
"Jersey Joe Walcott - A Boxing Biographt" by James Curl is an informative, educational and entertaining read. Curl portrays Walcott as a multi-dimensional person who contributed leadership to not only his family but his community, his sport and the wold during his lifetime.

People like Walcott, Ezzard Charles and Rocky Marciano were only vague names of former boxers. After reading this book, I understand and have a solid history of Heavyweight boxing from the 1930's through the mid 1950's.

I have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone who is a fan of professional boxing.
  JDVotier | Dec 15, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
My reason for wanting to read this book was because I like the rags to riches aspect of it, but the book is much more than that. About all I knew about boxing was from Friday Night at the Fights, which my dad watched back in the 1950s. The author did a great job of researching the story, and it is an amazing story, rich in detail about Jersey Joe Walcott's struggle to lift his family out of poverty, and to have a meaningful existence in this world. He was successful on all counts, and from beginning to end this book has many twists, turns and delightful surprises. I truly enjoyed it! I hope the author writes another book, perhaps on Ezzard Charles. ( )
  Rob.Larson | Nov 8, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I'd like to say first off that Jersey Joe Walcott has always struck me as an impressive fighter, and the opportunity to learn more about him was greatly appreciated. I also want to say that I understand there must be difficulties in researching the life of a fighter like Jersey Joe. It's truly a shame that earlier writers didn't pursue the opportunity to research more thoroughly the careers and lives of some of the great fighters of what was once America's most popular sport, but what's done is done. I'm glad to see that James Curl has tried to take up some of the abundant slack that has been left in this neglected field.

Nevertheless, there's an obligation to put forward an honest assessment of the sort of book which by its very nature is an odd construction readily prone to flawed assertions; the boxing biography. It's not so much the boxing part of that which is problematic, but the biographical part. People simply don't write biographies on subjects that they don't either intend to glorify or demonize, so there's an inherent flaw in the objectivity of the genre itself. This shows in most boxing biographies, and particularly in autobiographies, and James Curl's bio of Jersey Joe Walcott is no exception, though arguably not as glaringly so as many, and perhaps most.

Not wanting to ramble unnecessarily like a James Curl blow-for-blow description of a 15 round fight, I'll try to cut this short. There is an unfortunate lack of substance to this book which may have been unavoidable. Certain questions regarding the life of Jersey Joe at this point may be unanswerable. There are points in the book where you simply have to question what the writer was thinking... for example, when he describes Felix Bocchichio at one point as a suspect in a homicide and a well-known gangster, then very shortly thereafter describes Jersey Joe "recognizing him as a man of his word" and never attempts to reconcile how Jersey Joe, the purported "clean living athlete and devoutly religous man" could not only associate with but develop an extreme loyalty to an individual of such low repute and criminal associations. But such is life... it doesn't always have to make sense, and that's not entirely the writer's fault. The obvious discrepancies between photos provided in the book and the narrative, as described by other reviewers and particularly worthy of taking note of are of course, but still there's not too much harm in them... they tend to indicate that, like a Nat Fleischer description of a fight, one should be aware that the writer is largely attempting to describe something he views only from afar, and without understanding any of its subtleties, and that whenever events outpace his notetaking, he has to fill in the gaps with imagination to keep the narrative flowing and the reader entertained. In truth, the worst part of this book is the endless blow-by-blow accounts, or attempts at accounts, of Jersey Joe's fights. They drone on seemingly forever, encouraging us to envision things that only the writer sees. Sure, we can imagine what he describes, but would that truly represent the fight as it happened? Not a chance. Fights are too dynamic, too energized, and have too many dimensions to allow their speed, grace, power and fluidity to be expressed in mere words. A mere few seconds of a fight could be described in an abundance of words accurately, but in doing so would necessarily lose their sense of immediacy... what took fractions of a moment to happen could take up paragraphs or more to describe accurately, dulling the pacing of a dynamic experience. What can be described however, is the style of the fighter. Details of a fight can be conveyed without specifics. Curl described the "Walkaway", which he described as a signature move of Jersey Joe, and that helps define a fighter's style far better than a lengthy description of what punch landed in what round. That's the sort of thing he should have stuck to in his description of Jersey Joe's style.

In short, or as short as a long-winded review can be, this book is sparse at the beginning, has too much filler in the middle, and is brief but satisfyingly informative at the end. The reason probably lies with the availability of reliable information on the subject. I appreciate that Mr. Curl wrote it, and would encourage him to try his hand at another on Ezzard Charles, another individual the memory of whom truly deserves biographical preservation. As for the quality of the writing, I would advise boxing fans that sometimes, particularly in hard times for the sport, you have to take what you can get. Appreciate it, just don't kid yourself about the quality. ( )
  IbnAlNaqba | Aug 22, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In the introduction to his book, “Jersey Joe Walcott : a boxing biography” James Curl says that he is not a writer by profession. He could be if he wanted. For someone's first work of nonfiction this is a very well researched and well written book. He also chose a very interesting person for his subject. Jersey Joe’s life story has more twists than a Dickens novel.

“Jersey Joe Walcott” was born Arnold Raymond Cream in 1914 to a large, poor family outside of Camden New Jersey. His family introduced him to boxing early, boxing matches between neighborhood boys was an affordable entertainment. at age 16 he started boxing professionally and soon his skill caught the attention of Jack Blackburn, an up and coming trainer. When Blackburn was hired to train in Chicago he invited the promising young boxer to go with him. Bad luck made its first visit to Walcott’s career in the form of Typhoid Fever. While Walcott recuperated, it was over a year before he entered the ring again, Blackburn developed a boxer named Joe Louis.

Twenty one years after his first professional fight Jersey Joe won the heavyweight boxing championship, he was the oldest man to take the title until George Foreman retook the title at age 46. His career was a seemingly endless story of changing fortune. At one point he was discouraged enough to quit boxing, but the need to feed his family forced him back into the ring.

Walcott’s story impressed me. His biggest fight, his toughest opponent, was poverty. Until new trainer, Felix Bocchicchio, came along, poverty was winning more rounds than Walcott was. After all how can a man win a professional heavyweight boxing match when his last meal, a few bites of bread and potatoes, was the day before? The Walcott / Bocchicchio relationship is an interesting part of the story. Bocchicchio was well known around Camden as a gangster and gambler who had served prison time but, according to Curl he treated Walcott fairly. The respect and loyalty the two men shared seems anachronistic for the pre-Civil Rights Era. Because this is about professional boxing there is no way I can call it “heartwarming” but I found it pleasantly surprising.

Walcott’s life story could be summed up with those words, pleasantly surprising. He lived a real life Horatio Alger story. I hope this is not Curl’s last book. There are other stories that need to be told and he has the talent to tell them. ( )
  TLCrawford | Aug 3, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Since there apparently is no other biography of Jersey Joe Walcott this book certainly does serve a purpose because Walcott deserves the recognition. The main problem this book suffers from however is poor writing. Curl's writing style is pedestrian at best. Many of the accounts of Walcott's bouts are nothing more than dates, places and times. There is little descriptive information and at times the writing reminds me of a kid writing a paper for school about his or her favorite person. Curl seems to be on a minimal word count so he fills space by spelling out the entire arena name, city, state and date for every event. If you are going to do that you at least need to be more versatile as a writer because it gets boring very quickly. I thought it was going to improve when he reached the story of his first bout with Joe Louis but then the writing bogs down again with basically what amounted to a blow by blow box score description of the fight (although in fairness it was more lively than any of the other writing to that point) . I kept waiting for Curl to set the scenes better rather than to just say it was the depression and everyone was hurting for example.

I suppose this book was written too long after the events and perhaps Curl doesn't have access to more information as a major sportswriter would. Having said that, I still feel he could have been more descriptive of all aspects of Walcott's life. 2.5 stars because it does serve to fill a gap in sports history, but a much more detailed, serious biography is needed. ( )
  zimbawilson | Jul 26, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 078646822X, Paperback)

Born into extreme poverty in 1914, Jersey Joe Walcott began boxing at the age of 16 to help feed his hungry family. After ten years, without proper training and with little to show for his efforts beyond some frightful beatings, Walcott quit the ring. A chance meeting with a fight promoter who recognized the potential in his iron chin and hard punch turned Walcott's fortunes around, launching one of the greatest comebacks in boxing history. This biography details Walcott's youth, his dismal early career, and his legendary climb to become the heavyweight champion of the world at age 37, at the time the oldest man ever to win the coveted title. Along the way, he battled some of the most feared champions of his day, including Joe Louis, Ezzard Charles, and Rocky Marciano. With numerous period photographs and a foreword from Walcott's grandson, this work provides an intimate look at one of the grittiest, most determined boxers of the 20th century.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:12 -0400)

"This biography details Jersey Joe Walcott's youth, his dismal early career, and his legendary climb to become the heavyweight champion of the world at age 37, at the time making him the oldest man to ever win the coveted title. This work provides an intimate look at one of the grittiest, most determined boxers of the 20th century"--… (more)

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