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"Shadow Boxers"

"Shadow Boxers" is a terrific coffee table book, as long as you won't worry about what people sitting in your living room will think if they see a book about boxing on your coffee table. Jim Lommasson took the photographs. Among the writers who contributed to Shadow Boxers are Carlo Rotella, whom Only A Game listeners will recall as the author of "Cut Time: An Education at the Fights;" Katherine Dunn, who may be the only boxing correspondent who's covered the game for both Playboy and Mother Jones; and F.X. Toole, who wrote the short story upon which "Million Dollar Baby" was based.

The photographs in this book reflect the culture of the neighborhood gym. There are images of boxers intent on making a living in the ring, but there are also children who've learned that the gym is safer than the street. Some of the kids are so short they have to stand up on boxes to reach the speed bag. The essays in the book celebrate what is positive and nurturing in the gyms without descending into sentimentality. In an essay by Ralph Wiley entitled "It Ain't Church," Jerry Blueford, a police officer who teaches children to box, says of his charges "if they leave here in a couple of years and rob a bank, at least they didn't rob it while they were here."

A great many wonderful writers from W.C. Heinz on down have found worthy material in boxing, and the same can be said of lots of talented photographers. "Shadow Boxers" is a fine addition to the library of boxing-related works, and you don't have to enjoy or even condone the sport itself to appreciate the book.

This program aired on June 15, 2005. The audio for this program is not available.

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