35 books like Boxing's Greatest Fighters

By Bert Randolph Sugar,

Here are 35 books that Boxing's Greatest Fighters fans have personally recommended if you like Boxing's Greatest Fighters. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of On Boxing

Mark Allen Baker Author Of The World Colored Heavyweight Championship, 1876-1937

From my list on any fan of boxing.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having written over twenty-five books, including ten books on boxing, I have been involved with the sport through my work as a historian for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. I also sit on the Board of Directors Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame and have penned biographies on five members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. My name is Mark Allen Baker, and I am a historian and award-winning author.

Mark's book list on any fan of boxing

Mark Allen Baker Why did Mark love this book?

This gifted author I have yet to meet but do hope our paths will cross before the final bell. Oates published her first book in 1963, and has since published over 50 novels, several plays and novellas, and many volumes of short stories, poetry, and non-fiction. Her novels Black Water (1992), What I Lived For (1994), and Blonde (2000), and her short story collections The Wheel of Love (1970) and Lovely, Dark, Deep: Stories (2014) were each a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her personal, yet insightful, view of the sport will resonate with every fan of the sweet science.

By Joyce Carol Oates,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On Boxing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Joyce Carol Oates explores the world of professional boxing, examining the subject from many angles: boxing as metaphor, spectacle and history, boxing as seen in literature and film and by women. The author chronicles many famous figures such as Jack Dempsey, Barry McGuigan, Joe Louis and others. She also looks beyond the ring at the links between violence and racism and at how boxing vindicates disenfranchised youth. Joyce Carol Oates is also author of the novel "Marya: A Life".


Book cover of Tunney: Boxing's Brainiest Champ and His Upset of the Great Jack Dempsey

Mark Allen Baker Author Of The World Colored Heavyweight Championship, 1876-1937

From my list on any fan of boxing.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having written over twenty-five books, including ten books on boxing, I have been involved with the sport through my work as a historian for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. I also sit on the Board of Directors Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame and have penned biographies on five members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. My name is Mark Allen Baker, and I am a historian and award-winning author.

Mark's book list on any fan of boxing

Mark Allen Baker Why did Mark love this book?

Among the legendary athletes of the 1920s, the unquestioned halcyon days of sports, stands Gene Tunney, the boxer who upset Jack Dempsey in spectacular fashion, notched a 77—1 record as a prizefighter, and later avenged his sole setback (to a fearless and highly unorthodox fighter named Harry Greb). Yet within a few years of retiring from the ring, Tunney willingly receded into the background. To this day, Gene Tunney’s name is most often recognized only in conjunction with his epic “long count” second bout with Dempsey. Living nearly half his life in the state of Connecticut, Mr. Tunney was the first boxer I ever corresponded with. Author Jack Cavanaugh, also from Connecticut, crafts this priceless book.

By Jack Cavanaugh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tunney as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Among the legendary athletes of the 1920s, the unquestioned halcyon days of sports, stands Gene Tunney, the boxer who upset Jack Dempsey in spectacular fashion, notched a 77—1 record as a prizefighter, and later avenged his sole setback (to a fearless and highly unorthodox fighter named Harry Greb). Yet within a few years of retiring from the ring, Tunney willingly receded into the background, renouncing the image of jock celebrity that became the stock in trade of so many of his contemporaries. To this day, Gene Tunney’s name is most often recognized only in conjunction with his epic “long count”…


Book cover of The First Black Boxing Champions: Essays on Fighters of the 1800s to the 1920s

Mark Allen Baker Author Of The World Colored Heavyweight Championship, 1876-1937

From my list on any fan of boxing.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having written over twenty-five books, including ten books on boxing, I have been involved with the sport through my work as a historian for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. I also sit on the Board of Directors Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame and have penned biographies on five members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. My name is Mark Allen Baker, and I am a historian and award-winning author.

Mark's book list on any fan of boxing

Mark Allen Baker Why did Mark love this book?

This volume presents fifteen chapters of biography of African American and black champions and challengers of the early prize ring. They range from Tom Molineaux, a slave who won freedom and fame in the ring in the early 1800s; to Joe Gans, the first African American world champion; to the flamboyant Jack Johnson, deemed such a threat to white society that the film of his defeat of former champion and "Great White Hope" Jim Jeffries was banned across much of the country. Aycock and Scott construct a vivid and unambiguous view of the sport which is often forgotten. A gifted and prolific author, Aycock has also produced masterful works on Max Baer, Joe Gans, and Tex Rickard.

By Colleen Aycock (editor), Mark Scott (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The First Black Boxing Champions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume presents fifteen chapters of biography of African American and black champions and challengers of the early prize ring. They range from Tom Molineaux, a slave who won freedom and fame in the ring in the early 1800s; to Joe Gans, the first African American world champion; to the flamboyant Jack Johnson, deemed such a threat to white society that film of his defeat of former champion and "Great White Hope" Jim Jeffries was banned across much of the country. Photographs, period drawings, cartoons, and fight posters enhance the biographies. Round-by-round coverage of select historic fights is included, as…


Book cover of Sam Langford: Boxing's Greatest Uncrowned Champion

Mark Allen Baker Author Of The World Colored Heavyweight Championship, 1876-1937

From my list on any fan of boxing.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having written over twenty-five books, including ten books on boxing, I have been involved with the sport through my work as a historian for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. I also sit on the Board of Directors Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame and have penned biographies on five members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. My name is Mark Allen Baker, and I am a historian and award-winning author.

Mark's book list on any fan of boxing

Mark Allen Baker Why did Mark love this book?

Standing no more than five feet, seven inches; tall, Sam Langford was one of the 20th century's greatest fighters. In this biography, his life story is told in great and entertaining detail. Sam was a great black prizefighter in an era when the color line was easily cited by white opponents wanting to avoid meeting him in the ring. The Ring magazine editor Nat Fleischer ranked Langford among his favorites, stating, "Sam possessed strength, agility, cleverness, hitting power, a good thinking cap, and an abundance of courage. He feared no one." This comprehensive biography brings to light Sam Langford's remarkable talents and life thanks to author Clay Moyle. Having known Moyle for years, I can speak to his passion for the sport and his commitment to quality.


By Clay Moyle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sam Langford as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A compelling and thorough biography of the great Sam Langford.
Standing no more than 5’ 7” tall, Sam Langford was one of the 20th century’s greatest fighters. In 1951, the great featherweight champion Abe Attell was asked if Sugar Ray Robinson was the best of all time, either as a welterweight or middleweight. He named Stanley Ketchel as the greatest welterweight he’d ever seen and said that, as for the middleweights, he’d take Sam Langford, “the greatest of them all at that poundage.”
Remarkably, the man Attell felt was the greatest middleweight fighter in history fought and defeated many of…


Book cover of The Contender

Jonathan Starke Author Of You've Got Something Coming

From my list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

All these pugilistic narratives touch on people in hardship moving through dark spaces in their lives. I care about people on the fringes. I’ve known many people who have little or nothing. For a lot of my life, I’ve had little. I used to box. When something’s in your blood, you think about it every day. I can’t remember a day I haven’t thought about boxing. Once you’ve done it, it’s hard not to want to go back. You try to just pretend it away, but when it’s in you, it’s got hold. Because I understand this so well, feel it, have lived it, I absorb these boxing stories in a different kind of way. 

Jonathan's book list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters

Jonathan Starke Why did Jonathan love this book?

The mantra for this novel could be that the effort matters more than anything—the attempt, the trying. Winning is something, but it’s not everything. Brooks, a high-school dropout, has to find his way in a world where his closest friend is dying from drug addiction, his household is broken, and street thugs are after him. Against all odds, if you love something and want it, the pursuit of that dream can help those who chase it with enough intensity to possibly overcome the hardship. When so many boxing stories are written with utter bleakness, there is light here.

By Robert Lipsyte,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Contender as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The breakthrough modern sports novel The Contender shows readers the true meaning of being a hero.

This acclaimed novel by celebrated sportswriter Robert Lipsyte, the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in YA fiction, is the story of a young boxer in Harlem who overcomes hardships and finds hope in the ring on his path to becoming a contender.

Alfred Brooks is scared. He’s a high-school dropout, and his grocery store job is leading nowhere. His best friend is sinking further and further into drug addiction. Some street kids are after him for something he didn’t…


Book cover of The Professional

Jonathan Starke Author Of You've Got Something Coming

From my list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

All these pugilistic narratives touch on people in hardship moving through dark spaces in their lives. I care about people on the fringes. I’ve known many people who have little or nothing. For a lot of my life, I’ve had little. I used to box. When something’s in your blood, you think about it every day. I can’t remember a day I haven’t thought about boxing. Once you’ve done it, it’s hard not to want to go back. You try to just pretend it away, but when it’s in you, it’s got hold. Because I understand this so well, feel it, have lived it, I absorb these boxing stories in a different kind of way. 

Jonathan's book list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters

Jonathan Starke Why did Jonathan love this book?

Heinz takes the day-to-day minutia of being a boxer and makes it something beautiful. While the novel follows Eddie Brown’s quest for the middleweight title, told from the cynical perspective of sportswriter Frank Hughes, what’s really being relayed is everything it takes to build up to the one moment so few people ever face—that one-on-one in the ring you’ve got nowhere to run from the truth, from yourself. Did you prepare enough? Did you give it your all? And just who in the hell are you, really?

By W.C. Heinz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Professional as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally published in 1958, The Professional is the story of boxer Eddie Brown's quest for the middleweight championship of the world. But it is so much more. W. C. Heinz not only serves up a realistic depiction of the circus-like atmosphere around boxing with its assorted hangers-on, crooked promoters, and jaded journalists, but he gives us two memorable characters in Eddie Brown and in Brown's crusty trainer, Doc Carroll. They are at the heart of this poignant story as they bond together with their eye on the only prize that matters,the middleweight championship. The Professional is W. C. Heinz at…


Book cover of The Devil and Sonny Liston

Claudia Keenan Author Of Waking Dreamers, Unexpected American Lives: 1880-1980

From my list on on American culture that will surprise you.

Why am I passionate about this?

Claudia Keenan is a historian of education whose interest in American culture was awakened during her doctoral studies, when she researched the lives of mid-twentieth-century educators. Growing up in Mount Vernon, N.Y., she developed a strong affinity with place and time among the beautiful old homes and avenues lined with elms, set against a backdrop of racial strife and ethnic politics. She continues to reconstruct and interpret American lives on her blog, and has recently finished a book about Henry Collins Brown, founder of the Museum of the City of New York. Claudia received a BA from the University of Chicago and a PhD from New York University.

Claudia's book list on on American culture that will surprise you

Claudia Keenan Why did Claudia love this book?

“A ghost story, a haunting unto itself”—thus, music journalist Nick Tosches opens his tough tale of the boxer Sonny Liston, two-time heavyweight champion of the world. Born in 1932 into a family of tenant farmers that lived on the border of Arkansas and Mississippi, Liston grew up with violence, reinforced by an early stint in prison. Deftly, Tosches conjures the grim, ruthless culture of professional boxing during the 1950s and 60s. Most poignantly, he shows that Liston never possessed his own life—not in the fields from which he fled as a youth and not as a winner in the ring. He was always owned by white men who operated a fundamentally racist business. For readers interested in Black cultural history, this is a timely book. 

By Nick Tosches,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Devil and Sonny Liston as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A biography of the controversial fighter follows Liston from the mean streets, where he was a petty criminal, to the heavyweight championship and his life as a pawn of organized crime. By the author of Power on Earth. Reprint. 25,000 first printing.


Book cover of Fat City

Jonathan Starke Author Of You've Got Something Coming

From my list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

All these pugilistic narratives touch on people in hardship moving through dark spaces in their lives. I care about people on the fringes. I’ve known many people who have little or nothing. For a lot of my life, I’ve had little. I used to box. When something’s in your blood, you think about it every day. I can’t remember a day I haven’t thought about boxing. Once you’ve done it, it’s hard not to want to go back. You try to just pretend it away, but when it’s in you, it’s got hold. Because I understand this so well, feel it, have lived it, I absorb these boxing stories in a different kind of way. 

Jonathan's book list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters

Jonathan Starke Why did Jonathan love this book?

I first picked up this novel the year I started boxing. It follows the rough lives of Billy Tully and Ernie Munger, two boxers living in separate but parallel worlds—Tully an aging boxer fooled into thinking he can relive a few more glory days and Munger figuring out the hard lessons of what it means to lose. I love how this novel amplifies people eking out difficult lives who spend most of their time in dive bars, cheap motels, and seedy parts of town engaging with dubious, colorful characters. The writing is sparse, direct, sad, and unsentimental. Here Gardner is always pursuing a tough reality.

By Leonard Gardner,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Fat City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Tremendous' Geoff Dyer

'A pitch-perfect account of boxing, blue-collar bewilderment and the battle of the sexes' San Francisco Chronicle

A major cult film directed by John Huston

Stockton, California: a town of dark bars and lunchrooms, cheap hotels and farm labourers scratching a living. When two men meet in the Lido Gym - the ex-boxer Billy Tully and the novice Ernie Munger - their brief sparring session sets a fateful story in motion, initiating young Munger into the "company of men" and luring Tully back into training.

Fat City is a vivid novel of defiance and struggle, of the potent…


Book cover of Real

Kathryn C. Kelly Author Of Savage Suit

From my list on billionaire romances on my keeper shelf.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been reading romance since I was a teenager and writing them just as long. I have given workshops and panels, written a chapter on romance novels in a Kathryn Falk book, and was once the VP of SOLA. I have read thousands of books but few are memorable enough to become my favorites.

Kathryn's book list on billionaire romances on my keeper shelf

Kathryn C. Kelly Why did Kathryn love this book?

I had never read a book about professional boxer, fiction or nonfiction. The subject never interested me. I watched one or two fights on TV. The last was decades ago with the infamous Mike Tyson ear-chomping incident.

When Real by Katy Evan began appearing in my recommended reads, it was a hard no for me. Then, I began seeing the reviews about Remington Tate, a disgraced former boxer who is now a star on the dangerous Underground Circuit.

When I read the book, it instantly captivated me because of Ms. Evan’s descriptions and the emotions she captures. His simple, “I’m Remington,” to Brooke after a brutal fight in the ring won me over and I’ve been a fan ever since.

By Katy Evans,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Real as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Brooke Dumas has reinvented herself after a shattered Olympic dream and is now a sports rehab specialist. Dragged to watch an underground fight by her best friend, Melanie, she never expected her life would change when she met Remington Tate "Riptide" - a famous underground fighter who has danger written all over him. Given his reputation, she's convinced he's only interested in a one night stand when he summons her backstage but he hires her as his sports rehab specialist instead. Traveling together, Brooke's physical and emotional attraction to the enigmatic Remy tests her boundaries. She wants him more than…


Book cover of Cinderella Man: James J. Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History

Joy Neal Kidney Author Of Leora's Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression

From my list on surprising stories about the Great Depression.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the author of two books (the first book was Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II), a blogger, an Iowa historian, and a regular contributor to Our American Stories. I’ve woven letters and newspaper clippings, along with memoirs and family stories, into the narratives of the lives of Clabe and Leora Wilson. As their oldest granddaughter, I also enjoy giving programs, as well as TV and radio interviews, about the Wilson family.

Joy's book list on surprising stories about the Great Depression

Joy Neal Kidney Why did Joy love this book?

Boxing was such a popular sport during the Great Depression. My grandparents’ family regularly listened to “the fights” on the radio. Dubbed “Cinderella Man” by writer Damon Runyon, James J. Braddock, with 24 losses, won one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight boxing championship history. He defeated Max Baer on June 13, 1935, in Long Island City, New York, for the world title in a unanimous decision after a grueling 15 rounds.

The next day, Leora Wilson wrote her two sons who’d joined the Navy during the Depression, “Expect you may have heard the Braddock and Baer fight. I’m glad Braddock won–he needs the money for his family.” Not only that, but Braddock had been “on the dole” at one point, an underdog in many ways. He was so embarrassed at needing help to feed his three children that he paid back the money he’d received from the government. A…

By Jeremy Schaap,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cinderella Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A riveting tale of perseverance in the face of hardship, Cinderella Man is the chronicle of the boxer James J. Braddock, whose exceptional story of achievement against all odds was the subject of a major motion picture. Braddock, dubbed the Cinderella Man, staged the greatest comeback in fighting history, rising in the span of twelve months from the relief rolls to a face-off against the heavyweight champion, Max Baer.

Against the gritty backdrop of Depression-era New York, Schaap paints a vivid picture of the fight world in its golden age, evoking a time when boxing resonated with a country trying…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in boxing, coming of age, and bildungsroman?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about boxing, coming of age, and bildungsroman.

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