Bill Littlefield might not be a fan of the sport of boxing. But, he is a fan of writing about boxing, and George Kimball's Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran, and the Last Great Era of Boxing is no exception.
Duran-Leonard, Duran-Leonard II, Hearns-Leonard, Duran-Hagler, Duran-Hearns, Hagler-Hearns, Hagler-Leonard, Hearns-Leonard II, Duran-Leonard III. George Kimball saw them all, and a great many other prizefights involving only one of the above as well, which put him in a splendid position to discuss the significance of the four fighters who, according to Kimball, provided boxing with its last “great era.” To refer to George Kimball as an insider would be a ridiculous understatement. After Marvin Hagler beat Alan Minter in London, Hagler and his camp put off singing their victory anthem, “God Bless America,” for hours. They did not break into song until Kimball arrived at the bar where they’d gathered to celebrate. It’s no shock to learn that Kimball, based in Boston, was close to Hagler and his handlers, the Petronellis, who lived in Brockton. But the author also earned the trust and friendship of not only various other boxers, but the guys who made the matches, judged the bouts, and counted the money. Damaging, fatal, and crooked as boxing is and has always been, there is no denying that the sport has inspired memorable writing. George Kimball holds his own with such worthies as A.J. Liebling and W.C. Heinz. Of the third fight between Ray Leonard and an aging Roberto Duran, he writes: “It didn’t’ take Duran long to realize that if he hoped to avenge the events of New Orleans nine years earlier he probably should have brought along a gun.” If you believe boxing is so gruesome and corrupt that it ought to be banned…Nah, I was gonna say then Four Kings isn’t the book for you, but the stories are terrific, and you probably ought to read it even if you hate the sport.