The most recommended boxing books

Who picked these books? Meet our 35 experts.

35 authors created a book list connected to boxing, and here are their favorite boxing books.
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Book cover of The Exploits of Engelbrecht

Rhys Hughes Author Of My Rabbit's Shadow Looks Like a Hand

From my list on underrated offbeat humorous fantasy.

Who am I?

The world is a strange place and life can feel very weird at times, and I have long had the suspicion that a truly imaginative and inventive comedy has more to say about reality, albeit in an exaggerated and oblique way, than much serious gloomy work. Comedy has a wider range than people often think. It doesn’t have to be sweet, light, and uplifting all the time. It can be dark, unsettling and suspenseful, or profoundly philosophical. It can be political, mystical, paradoxical. There are humorous fantasy novels and short story collections that have been sadly neglected or unjustly forgotten, and I try to recommend those books to readers whenever I can.

Rhys' book list on underrated offbeat humorous fantasy

Rhys Hughes Why did Rhys love this book?

The stories that appear in this book were first published in Lilliput in the 1940s, a British monthly magazine. They relate the perilous, often diabolical activities of the Surrealist Sportsman’s Club, a society devoted to playing games that no one else would dream of attempting. Engelbrecht is a diminutive boxer who fights clocks, zombies, witches, and other assorted horrors and marvels, and he generally wins because of pluck combined with luck. Richardson’s prose style here is a blend of gothic horror, period science fiction, and the wisecracking of Damon Runyan, and the reader can expect no respite from the tumult of ideas, images, situations, jokes, and subversion of clichés.

By Maurice Richardson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Published for the first time in a low cost edition, Maurice Richardson's cult classic is one of the strangest works of fiction ever written. Fifteen stories that relate the activities of the Surrealist Sportsman's Club, a society with very dubious morals that spends the time it has left between the collapse of the moon and the end of the universe taking the concept of the 'game' to its logical limit.

A club can't operate without members, and those of the SSC are as strange and astonishing as some of the events they compete in. Most formidable of all, and more…

Book cover of The Magnificent Max Baer: The Life of the Heavyweight Champion and Film Star

Mark Allen Baker Author Of Willie Pep: A Biography of the 20th Century's Greatest Featherweight

From Mark's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Author Biographer Historian Comprehensive Meticulous

Mark's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Mark Allen Baker Why did Mark love this book?

Authors Aycock and Wallace bring Max Baer to life in this comprehensive biography that covers the fighter’s complete ring record, his early life, his career on radio, film, stage and television, and his World War II army service. Not a surprise considering Aycock’s father, Norman “Ike” Aycock was one of Baer’s sparring partners. Baer defeated 275-pound Primo Carnera in 1934 for the championship, losing it to Jim Braddock the next year. Contrary to Cinderella Man, (2005), Baer--favored 10 to 1--was not a villain and the fight was more controversial than the film suggested. His battle with Joe Louis three months later drew the highest gate of the decade. Brilliantly crafted, the prolific boxing authors provide a fascinating glimpse into this charismatic man.

By Colleen Aycock, David W. Wallace,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

California's "Glamour Boy" and world champion boxer was a movie attraction for women and a money-making draw for promoters during the Great Depression. The Prizefighter and the Lady, in 1933, gave movie-goers a boxer who could sing and dance. The film, climaxing with Baer's world title fight against Italian Primo Carnera, was reprised in 1956 in The Harder They Fall, with Humphrey Bogart.

Many said the sport would have died in the 1930s were it not for the colorful Max Baer. He was a contender for every heavyweight championship from 1932 to 1941. In 1935, Baer brought back the "million-dollar…

Book cover of Rope Burns

Jonathan Starke Author Of You've Got Something Coming

From my list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters.

Who am I?

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?

This is the most beautiful, touching, and emotional book about boxing, penned by a cut man who didn’t stumble into writing until he was in his sixties. Toole’s prose is sharp, lean, commanding, and coming from the mouth of truth. His gritty characters tell it and show it like it is, and it’s Toole’s ability to demonstrate the love trainers have for their boxers and passion for the pursuit of boxing, along with all the big hearts and often unseen vulnerability in the sport, that makes this story collection so open and heavy and heartfelt and breathing and alive.

By F.X. Toole,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Ring magic is different from the magic of the theatre, because the curtain never comes down - because the blood in the ring is real blood, and the broken noses and the broken hearts are real, and sometimes they are broken forever. Boxing is the magic of men in combat, the magic of will, and skill, and pain, and the risking of everything so you can respect yourself for the rest of your life.'The hermetic world of boxing is notoriously difficult for outsiders to understand, though it has provided a source of fascination to numerous writers, including Norman Mailer, A.J.…

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.

Who am I?

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…

Book cover of From Here to Eternity

Sam Foster Author Of Non-Semper Fidelis

From my list on showing that a man is the sum of his choices.

Who am I?

I heard a Jordan Peterson interview in which he boiled down my entire life’s struggle in a single phrase.  The interviewer was pushing Jordon on the subject of male toxicity. Jordon said something like, “If a man is entirely unwilling to fight under any circumstance, he is merely a weakling. Ask in martial arts trainer and they will tell you they teach two things – the ability to fight and self-control. A man who knows how and also knows how to control himself is a man.”

Sam's book list on showing that a man is the sum of his choices

Sam Foster Why did Sam love this book?

James Jones's brilliant debut novel must have had a great effect on me because I admit, in many ways, my book covers the same ground – how does a man maintain honor and dignity when constrained to live his life by the choices of other, and much more powerful men? I suppose the difference between our two themes is that the question in my book is about those same choices but wrapped in the question of race. Jones’s characters, while in the military, were dealing with personal issues. My Corporal Buck is dealing with an issue about which all of America is on fire.

From Here to Eternity is 70 years old. I read it in 1969, an eternity ago and it has lasted with me from there to here.  When I was in the Marine Corps I knew everything that was happening to me. But I didn’t know what…

By James Jones,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked From Here to Eternity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'I'll never understand the fucking Army.'

Prew won't conform. He could have been the best boxer and the best bugler in his division, but he chooses the life of a straight soldier in Hawaii under the fierce tutelage of Sergeant Milt Warden. When he refuses to box for his company for mysterious reasons, he is given 'The Treatment', a relentless campaign of physical and mental abuse. Meanwhile, Warden wages his own campaign against authority by seducing the Captain's wife Karen - just because he can. Both men are bound to the Army, even though it may destroy them.

Published here…

Book cover of Atlas: From the Streets to the Ring: A Son's Struggle to Become a Man

Mark Allen Baker Author Of Willie Pep: A Biography of the 20th Century's Greatest Featherweight

From Mark's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Author Biographer Historian Comprehensive Meticulous

Mark's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Mark Allen Baker Why did Mark love this book?

In this bold, captivating tale, Teddy Atlas, a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame,  recounts his fascinating life as a juvenile delinquent on the streets of Staten Island; as a boxer and Golden Gloves champion under the tutelage of famed trainer Cus D'Amato; as a companion to the dangerous, unpredictable Sammy "the Bull" Gravano, up until the day Gravano turned rat and brought down crime boss John Gotti; and as a trainer of champions and contenders, among them 14-year-old Mike Tyson and heavyweight Michael Moorer, whom he led to the crown with a win over Evander Holyfield. Never pulling any punches, Atlas feints in one direction on one page, then pounds you with combinations on the next. His honesty and fortitude is inspiring.

By Teddy Atlas, Peter Alson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In "Atlas", Teddy recounts his incredible life, from juvenile delinquent, to his induction into the legendary Cus D'Amato's Boxing Camp and his first major challenge - training 14-year-old Mike Tyson. An amateur boxer trained by D'Amato, Atlas captured the Adirondack Golden Gloves title at 139 pounds in 1976. Forced out of competition because of injury, Teddy turned his talents to training fighters, including Mike Tyson, Barry McGuigan, Tracy Patterson, Joey Gamache, Simon Brown and Donny Lalonde. In 1994, in a memorable performance as trainer and corner man, Teddy inspired Michael Moorer to beat Evander Holyfield for the world heavyweight championship.…

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.

Who am I?

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 How to Pronounce Knife: Stories

Rabindranath Maharaj Author Of The Amazing Absorbing Boy

From my list on for believing you've found a home.

Who am I?

I grew up in a large extended family in a rural district in Trinidad. Frequently, as a young boy, I sought escape in the forested area at the back of the house. There, I would craft childish stories and fantasize about becoming a writer. This wish was granted after I moved to Canada in the 1990s. As an immigrant writer here, most of my books are about movement, dispossession, and finding a home. So, in a sense, I have always been running away from, while at the same time, searching for a home. This tension has given birth to most of my books.

Rabindranath's book list on for believing you've found a home

Rabindranath Maharaj Why did Rabindranath love this book?

In these stripped-down stories, the minute observations are just as significant as the broader strokes the writer uses to depict the lives of refugees, people at the margins. Told mostly from the perspective of a Laotian adolescent, the characters are each trying to understand the steps they must take to fit into their new barricaded lives. In spite of the claustrophobia that encloses the characters, the stories are funny and tender. 

By Souvankham Thammavongsa,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How to Pronounce Knife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE 'Spellbinding' i 'Breathtaking' Elle 'Powerhouses of feeling and depth' Mary Gaitskill 'Sharp and vital' Daisy Johnson An ex-boxer turned nail salon worker falls for a pair of immaculate hands; a mother and daughter harvest earthworms in the middle of the night; a country music-obsessed housewife abandons her family for fantasy; and a young girl's love for her father transcends language. In this stunning debut, Souvankham Thammavongsa captures the day-to-day lives of immigrants and refugees in a nameless city, illuminating hopes, disappointments, love affairs, and above all, the pursuit of a place to belong

Book cover of George Dixon: The Short Life of Boxing's First Black World Champion, 1870-1908

Jason Wilson and Richard M. Reid Author Of Famous for a Time: Forgotten Giants of Canadian Sport

From my list on the impact of sport on social history.

Who are we?

Between the two of us, we have written over a dozen books and won numerous prizes. Wilson, when not writing critically-acclaimed music or explaining how to catch a haggis, has received the Ontario Historical Association’s Joseph Brant Award for King Alpha’s Song in a Strange Land. Reid, who wisely passed up the chance of a law career in order to play an extra year of soccer, received the C. P. Stacey Award for African Canadians in Union Blue. Both writers believe that sports offer a valuable lens by which to examine a society’s core values.

Jason's book list on the impact of sport on social history

Jason Wilson and Richard M. Reid Why did Jason love this book?

Winders captures the hardening racial attitudes of America’s “Gilded Age” and white society’s embrace of segregation and exploitation in his study of one of the all-time great fighters.

A man of contradictions, George Dixon would become a famous world champion and one of North America’s richest and most popular Black men. Dixon would also die of alcoholism, destitute, alone, and forgotten. Winders claims that, to the then fledgling Black culture in North America, “Dixon was the single-most significant athlete of nineteenth century.”

Yet at the same time, he was a man “who could be indifferent to his race.” Satisfied to live in a white world that celebrated him while he was winning, Dixon found that that same world could turn on him when he was too successful. His gory victory over Jack Skelly in the 1892 Carnival fight in New Orleans put an end to mixed race fights in the…

By Jason Winders,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On September 6, 1892, a diminutive Black prizefighter brutally dispatched an overmatched white hope in the New Orleans Carnival of Champions boxing tournament. That victory sparked celebrations across Black communities nationwide but fostered unease among sporting fans and officials, delaying public acceptance of mixed-race fighting for half a century. This turn echoed the nation's disintegrating relations between whites and Blacks and foreshadowed America's embrace of racial segregation.

In this work of sporting and social history we have a biography of Canadian-born, Boston-raised boxer George Dixon (1870-1908), the first Black world champion of any sport and the first Black world boxing…

Book cover of Nubby's Story

Becky Van Vleet Author Of Unintended Hero

From Becky's 11-year-old's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Educator Blogger WWII enthusiast Passionate about family stories

Becky's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Plus, Becky's 5, and 11-year-old's favorite books.

Becky Van Vleet Why did Becky's 11-year-old love this book?

My grandson, Kenny, could not put this book down. He loves all animals and especially dogs.

Reading a true story about a dog born with no front legs and small in size as well as sick, Kenny’s heartstrings were pulled into Nubby’s story of obstacles and how the little dog overcame them with creativity, a lot of hard work, and love from his family.

By Aubre Andrus,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nubby's Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

The true story of how one special dog beat the odds -- as seen on hit social media site The Dodo!

When Nubby the boxer was born, there was something different about him. That's because Nubby was born without his two front legs. He was so small and so sick. The humans who rescued him weren't sure he would make it. But after a little while, Nubby started to get better. Soon, Nubby was well enough to try to walk. But without his front legs, Nubby had to scoot or hop from place to place. Nubby's family knew this one-of-a-kind…