• Old Subject but NEW (and great) Book

It really isn't until you get into Adam Pollack's new book on Corbett that you can answer for yourself the question that has first come to mind. "Why would anyone write another book on Jim Corbett?"

The answer is that if you write well and have the incredible tenacity it takes to sift through hundreds of newspaper accounts of any celebrity's life, you will likely produce a largely untold account of that life.

That is certainly what has happened here. To BCN readers, think Harry Shaffer's articles seen here from time to time. Actual newspaper quotes knitted together by the kind of narrative style that old Harry (nor moi) could ever master. What emerges is a fresh account of a fascinating figure. And the photos therein are also anything but ordinary.

Adam has now done Sullivan and Corbett and will be giving us Fitzsimmons next, then Jeffries. We can hardly wait.

__Don Scott, Boxing Collector's Newsletter.


  • In The Ring With James Corbett is a book that has been written by an attorney. It's hard for me to advise you to do anything that might make an attorney richer, but I have to tell you that this book is worth the cover price and more.

What is most interesting is Adam's angle - it's about the boxing, and all the way to the hilt. This makes for a slow start, as Corbett, the most professional of amatuers, tours the country making a bit of sly cash under a pseudonym so as not to jeprodise his attatchment to the Olympic sporting club, which sounds like a hell of a place. Even these earlier fights are treated with tender loving care by the writer and it is interesting to read the boxer's words regarding his early experiences.

"Early in my experience I used to be fond of parrying blows. I found that they would sometimes get through my guard in spite of everything. Then I began to rely upon my legs and eyesight. I found it a great deal better plan..."

This ties in with Adam's exhaustive post fight analysis of the Sullivan-Corbett duel and there is a real sense of the book "coming together" as you read. There is a complete picture of Corbett and no mistake.

Once the book lifts of, it's almost impossible to put down. Adam doesn't drop any sauce into his accounts of the great Corbett battles, he understands the drama exsists regardless and so we are treated to little opinion or speculation but we do get multiple sources for each round of the Corbett-Peter Jackson war of May, 1891.

The coverage is exhaustive and I can honestly say that I have a real sense of what occured in this fight with having ever being able to see it and that's a treat.

The Sullivan fight is treated as a near Holy thing with multiple sources (including The New Orleans Daily Picayune, The New Orleans Times-Democrat, Birminghan Age Herald, The New York Times, New York Herald and New York Sun) compressed into one thrilling account so thrilling it's the closest thing to watching the fight you could ever experience.

After this fight we run into the books limitations a little bit. There is nothing about how Corbett celebrated, what women he saw, what his family made of the events, how quickly he recovered (though he was at the "sparring" not long after)...pretty much none of that. To some that will be a relief, but I felt it was a shame. However, give Adam credit - he set out to write a book purely about boxing and that's what he's done, regardless of the temptation to do otherwise here.

And the book soon goes into overdrive again. Jackson had the sore end of his draw with Corbett but it was a draw, and Jackson was very much the #1 contender - now followed a fascinating rhetorical joust between Corbett's people, Jackson's people and the society of the day as to whether and where a fight between the two should take place. This part of the book - relevant because it concerns making a fight - is my favourite, with astonishing insights into the colour politics of the time through the windown of contempory accounts. Nowhere does Adam judge Corbett but nor does he duck "Gentleman Jim's" conduct in this matter.

I submit that the details concerning the attempts to make the failed Jackson fight are worth the price alone.

Although there is an inevitable sense of "those days were better" in the tone - inevitable because the writer has to descibe scenes like this one, where Corbett and Sullivan spar (long before their fight):

"...the boxers wore large gloves, their dinner outfits, including their vests, pants, shirtsleeves, collars and neckties, to the surprise of the spectators. They barely ruffled each other's hair over the 3 rounds..."

But nevertheless Adam keeps a very reasonable detatchment from proceedings, probably because his subject runs directly into the next one - Fitzimmons. That book will be a treat, I suspect, though the one i'm looking forward to most is Jeffries.

So just tell yourself that Adam Pollack is most likely a human rights lawyer of some sort and order the book.

__McGrain, East Side Boxing forum


I had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of Adam's new book and I can assure you that it is quite worth the price of admission. Like Adam's work on Sullivan, In the Ring With James J. Corbett is a highly detailed, well written, and well researched work. I am a big fan of primary sources and this book supplies them in detail, using them to craft a thoroughly accurate and objective look at Corbett's fighting career, his machinations and his business acumen. Adam remains objective in his prose, giving several sides to each fight, each story. In my opinion, Adam's series on the heavyweight champions is the most exhaustively comprehensive group of works available on the fighting lives of these very public and very important social figures. If you want to know about Jim Corbett's career as a fighter, you need not look any further than In the Ring With James J. Corbett.

__Kevin Smith, author of Black Genesis and The Sundowners


  • Boxing historian Adam Pollack has produced the definitive work on the boxing life of James J. Corbett. No other book in existence can compare to the fine and rich details of Corbett's bouts, his training, and fight to the finish Queensberry bouts common for major bouts during Jim's time. Mr. Pollack has continued to set the standard that, at least this writer wishes, could be done for all important boxers, as he previously has for John L. Sullivan. He is a wonder.

__Michael Hunnicutt, International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO)


  • "I am VERY impressed. This is a scholarly work worthy of any boxing library. Adam Pollack has done an amazing job with the research and does a good job showing the backgrounds behind the fights and doing as good a job as possible recreating the fights themselves... He has to use eyewitness accounts and newspaper excerpts to recreate the fights and does a very good job with this. I found the descriptions of Corbett's involvement with Joe Choynski particularly fascinating. ... The title indicates that the book deals with the ring life of Corbett and it most certainly achieves that."

__Jason Simons, Boxingscene.com


  • Excellent Addition to Boxing History !!!
"I am a long time boxing historian and feel compelled to say that Mr. Pollack's book on the legendary former champion is outstanding. His exhaustive research and attention to detail have served to bring this old time champion to life. I learned much about Fitz along the way and highly recommend it to any boxing fan !!!

__E. Grant, book reviewer on Amazon.com


  • "It's exhaustively researched. ... a treasure trove of documentation gathered together in one place. ... Boxing fans should be grateful that Adam Pollack is writing these books. He's performing a real service in furtherance of the preservation of boxing history."

__Thomas Hauser, SecondsOut.com

  • See the full review here.
  • An Outstanding Book on the great Jim Jeffries - Mr. Pollack has put together a detailed book on one of Boxing greatest and unfortunately, most forgotten heavyweight champion. After reading this book one comes away with a greater appreciation of Jeffries skill and toughness in the ring. You get a sense that he was every bit as good (in his prime) as Jack Johnson. This is a must have book for anyone who is interested in not only Jeffries but also the era in which Jeffries was champion. If you merely watch Ken Burns documentary on Jack Johnson Unforgivable Blackness you'll come away with an incomplete picture of Jeffries. Jeffries should have his own documentary.

Mr. Pollack details each of Jeffries championship fights. He covers the training, the odds, what the fighters said in the press to hype the fight and gives round by round, almost blow by blow account of what took place. I hope Mr Pollack will continue writing and bring his sharp analytical style to such fighters as Jack Johnson and Jack Dempsey. But until that time let me thank Mr. Pollack for writing this outstanding book and letting boxing fans appreciate the abilities of The Boilermaker James J. Jeffries!

__Michael A. Vogt - 2010-02-08


  • "As the new millennium began, an Iowa attorney and boxing aficionado named Adam Pollack decided to write biographies of boxing's early gloved champions. In The Ring with James J. Jeffries is the fourth in that series, following biographies of John L. Sullivan, James J. Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons.

In the Ring with James J. Jeffries takes readers from Jeffries' birth to his first retirement in 1905, when he was considered by many to be the greatest fighter of all time. Like Pollack's previous books, it follows a set formula. After reading thousands of contemporaneous newspaper and magazine articles, the author exhaustively reports on the build-up to each significant fight in his subject's career and the fight itself. ...

Pollack's writing is constantly improving. The narrative flow of each new book is better than the one before.

Here, Jeffries' 1899 conquest of Bob Fitzsimmons to win the heavyweight crown is particularly well told, as is his successful 1900 title defense against James J. Corbett (the first time a former gloved champion sought to regain the crown).

Pollack is committed to writing biographies of Marvin Hart and Tommy Burns. After that, who knows? Meanwhile, his books are a valuable addition to any serious boxing library and the definitive archive for source material on boxing's early gloved heavyweight champions."

__Thomas Hauser




  • I'm not sure which of his books I like more but it's between Tommy Burns and Marvin Hart (I enjoy the more obscure aspects of the sport). …  What an excellent reference piece. … [These books] are
essentially reference guides to the boxers' careers up to their final fight as champion using primary sources, and as such they are invaluable. I must say, I applaud his efforts and hope he continues. … If you are interested in boxing history, and, like me, prefer to rely on first-hand accounts rather than regurgitated myths you will do well to purchase this book (and his others).
__Steve Compton


  • Another Pollack Classic… The book is terrific …. In the Ring With Tommy Burns is another excellent addition to Mr. Pollack's exceptional series on the history of the heavyweight champions. His archival research brings this near forgotten champion back to life. Burns was a very interesting figure and a terrific fighter in his own right. He deserves far more than to be remembered as the man Johnson won the title from.

I strongly recommend this book to all fight fans. I predict all of Mr. Pollack's book will become highly sought after collectors' items in the years to come.
__Evan Grant


  • One of the great things about this series is the way it has shined light on some of the lesser-known champs like Hart or Burns. But even those whose lives and careers have been chronicled in many more traditional biographies have more detail revealed about their careers in these books than has ever been done before to my knowledge.
__Zac Daniels


  • Outstanding book. The sixth in Adam Pollack's wonderful series of books concerning heavyweight champions, beginning with John L. Sullivan, this work concerning the lesser-known Tommy Burns will no doubt hereafter be viewed as the definitive source considering the fighting skills and merit of the smallest of the 20th century heavyweight champions. As has been the case with each of Adam's books to-date this one on Burns is meticulously researched and it's difficult to imagine a more thorough analysis of the man's career as a professional boxer.

I was already fairly well aware of Burn's place in boxing history but gained a much greater appreciation for him as a fighter as a result of reading this book. I had always been under the impression that Burns did everything possible to avoid facing Jack Johnson. However, I am now convinced that Burns was never really all that reluctant to face Johnson and really only wanted to ensure that he received his desired asking price to face the man he believed represented the greatest challenge to his title. He should be applauded for his willingness to fight Johnson at a time when so many others would have hidden behind the color line. I also wasn't aware that Burns had defended the title as often as he did, making a total of 13 successful title defenses before ultimately losing to Johnson in December of 1908.

It really is quite remarkable that the 5'7" Burns enjoyed as much success as he did. Many of the men that he defeated during his title reign outweighed him by 10-20 pounds and the fact of the matter was that Burns, who normally weighed in the 170s during his title reign, was really no more than a light-heavyweight.

I can't help but believe that anyone who reads this book will come away with a much greater appreciation of Tommy Burns as a fighter. Additionally, the reader will gain further insight into the fighting skills and styles of men like Jack "Twin" Sullivan, Hugo Kelly, "Philadelphia" Jack O'Brien, and many, many others.

I was also particularly interested to learn of the controversy concerning one of Tommy's fights with Jack O'Brien and the claim on the part of not only Burns and the fight's promoter that O'Brien would only make the fight if Burns would agree to throw it. I hadn't heard of that story before and the fact that James J. Jeffries then made a similar accusation concerning O'Brien only seemed to substantiate the charges.

I highly recommend the book and commend Adam for producing yet another outstanding resource and welcome addition to my boxing library.
__Clay Moyle


  • My enthusiasm and praise for Adam Pollack's series of books on the early heavyweight champions virtually knows no bounds. … I am going to review the latest in the series in the hope it will persuade anyone who has not yet dipped their toes in and bought any of these books to do so.

Anyone who has purchased any of the previous books in the series will know what to expect by now and the latest on Burns does not buck the trend or let standards slip. Each of his major fights is covered in exhaustive detail with round by round reports drawing on numerous first hand newspaper reports. What makes this book perhaps more interesting than some of its predecessors is the fact that in Burns we are dealing with a fighter for whom there is still decent footage remaining of many of the fights under analysis so comparison can be made between the footage we have and how the fights were reported in their immediate aftermath.

What I also found interesting in this book is Pollack's analysis of how the title picture in the wake of Jeffries retirement was dealt with, as I touched on in my Hart thread the other day it does appear confusion seems to have reigned with many refusing to acknowledge Hart as champion, many arguing the title should revert back to Fitzsimmons and some, oddly enough still acknowledging Jeffries as champion. Pollack does an admirable job of summarizing the attitudes at the time and also helping to make sense of the confusion giving the picture that Burns and to an extent Hart did seem to have suffered somewhat from the sheer dominance and esteem that typified the Jeffries reign.

As will come as a shock to nobody I am wholeheartedly recommending this book as I recommend the rest of the series and for those that are a fan of the series Adam has confirmed he is going to do the Johnson book which is obviously next in line which should be absolutely outstanding.
__Paul Hindley


  • This is the sixth book on the heavyweight champions in the well-known series from boxing writer Adam Pollack.  Once again, Pollack does not disappoint in bringing the reader top shelf material with meticulous detail in recounting the historic career of Tommy Burns.  Written utilizing first hand newspaper accounts of the day from those who witnessed Burns in the ring, the book provides authentic and accurate essentials for boxing historians and other interested parties.  In addition to the blow by blow fight descriptions, Mr. Pollack also delves into fight analysis, Burns' opponents and the top ranked contenders of the day.  The reader comes away with a great admiration and new found respect for the man Jack Johnson once condescendingly referred to as "Lil Tommy."  Enhanced with many rare images and statistics this book is a must for the bookcase of every boxing memorabilia collector and anyone interested in boxing history. 
__John Griffin





  • In The Ring With Tommy Burns





  • One of the great, but slightly depressing things about reading a book like this is the stark realization of how little you actually know about the subject matter. Having read a decent chunk about Jack Johnson and Sam Langford I thought I had a decent grip on the career and abilities of Joe Jennette. On the back of reading Joe Botti's excellent biography on the man I have to admit I was wrong. Jennette emerges as a much better fighter than I ever imagined and a truly immense figure outside of the ring.

Botti makes the unusual decision to write the book from Joe's perspective and as if Joe is writing the book, which for a non ghost written book of a long dead fighter does take some getting used to. Early in the piece I frequently found myself asking how the author could have known what Jennette was thinking in a given situation. However you quick come to realise the sheer wealth of research Botti has done and that based on countless interviews with Joe's surviving relatives it is not that great a leap to assume to know Joe's opinions on his career.

As most of us will know, if Joe is known at all now it is as one of the triumvirate of fighters, along with McVea and Langford who Jack Johnson refused to fight as champion. What comes through is how the sense of optimism they all felt when Johnson won the title soon turned into frustration when it became apparent Johnson had no intention of giving them the opportunity Burns had given him. Before reading the book I had always assumed if anyone was likely to get a shot or topple Johnson it would be Langford, whilst this may still be true it is probably also true of Jennette whose form and true ability I was perhaps guilty of underestimating, even as a novice he had always pushed Johnson close and even held a win over him in his pre title days, with more experience and size on his shoulders who knows how a title shot may have gone.

Whilst Jennette may not have had Johnson's brash arrogance or Langford's ready way with a quip outside the ring is life is no less interesting. Joe was married for 50 years to a white woman, marrying in an era where not only was this frowned upon but was illegal in many states. When one considers the opportunities denied him in the ring and the prejudice Jennette endured outside the ring one could forgive him for being bitter or lashing out, Joe did nothing of the sort. The dignity he appears to have retained throughout his career speaks volumes of the man and does lead one to question how the history of the division could have been different had it been Jennette rather than Johnson who got first crack at the title.

One frequent criticism I have of boxing books is how quickly they skip through a fighters post boxing career and life. Botti is not guilty of this, Jennette went on to be a successful coach and businessman post boxing and Botti covers this in detail, whilst Joe may have never been afforded the opportunities his career in his life, his work with Georges Carpentier and Jimmy Braddock as a trainer will hopefully have provided him some satisfaction in his later life.

Overall I enjoyed this book enormously, as anyone who has read Unforgivable Blackness or the excellent Sam Langford biography this book is an essential and welcome companion piece. It contains a mass of rarely seen photos and a full ring record as should all boxing biographies. If someone could kindly complete the set and do a biography on Sam McVea now I would be most grateful.

__Paul Hindley


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Review of Adam Pollack's "In the Ring With" Series

I thought now would be a fairly opportune moment to write a review of Adam Pollack's ongoing series on the early heavyweight champions. For those unfamiliar with these works Pollack has taken on the daunting task of writing biographies of the earliest heavyweight champions starting with the man widely accepted as being the first heavyweight champion of the gloved era, John L Sullivan and with the most recent in the series being the oft maligned Marvin Hart, with Tommy Burns arriving shortly.

Will come a shock to nobody who I have discussed these books with previously to know I am a massive fan of this series and I, again cannot praise highly enough the work Pollack has done. With the fighters under consideration there is little to no footage available so it is often easy for myths about their styles and abilities such as that Sullivan was nothing but a crude brawler or that Hart was a limited slugger who lucked his way into the heavyweight title. Pollack covers every fight in the fighter's career in forensic detail drawing on at least two or three newspaper reports of the time to cover all their major fights and exhibitions on a round by round basis. This allows you to develop a good understanding of the fights and also avoids drawing solely on local reports which can be written to favour the local favourite, giving you a far more rounded impression of what actually happened in the fights, something obviously invaluable when so little footage is available.

Pollack's writing style takes some getting used to as there is little of the things you are used to seeing in the normal biography such as information about their lifestyles outside the ring with the books focusing solely on their in ring action and training camps leading up to the fights, but as these are covered in such exhaustive detail this is something you are quickly ready to ignore and to be honest once you get used to his style you soon forget about this. However when there are out of ring controversies or points of interest that warrant covering such as how Hart came to earn his title shot or the controversy surrounding the Sharkey-Fitzsimmons fight these are covered in his usual detail and certainly for me the section on the Sharkey-Fitz controversy and subsequent court case ranks as one of the most enjoyable and insightful sections I have read in any boxing book.

It would seem churlish to criticize a series of books I have read and enjoyed quite as much but if I was to be critical the books are quite expensive weighing in at over £30 each. However for those with a passion for the history of the sport I would be confident in saying you will not regret spending this money and even this is mitigated by the fact the books are beautifully illustrated and presented with the high quality hard back covers giving the books a quality academic feel. Overall I cannot recommend these books highly enough but if anyone is interested in buying them I would heavily recommend you do so in order as the narratives frequently overlap so it makes sense to do so and will increase your enjoyment of the series.

__Paul Hindley

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  • Black Ink
-Written by Jose Corpas

 
  • Tony Zale: The Man of Steel
-Written by Thad Zale and Clay Moyle



 
  • Johann Trollmann and Romani Resistance to the Nazis
            -Written by Jud Nirenberg

  • Johann Trollmann and Romani Resistance to the Nazis by Jud Nirenberg (Iowa City: KO Publications, 2016)  is an important book for several reasons.  First, it is the heroic and tragic story of the Romani (Gypsy) German boxing champion Rukili "Johann" Trollmann, who rose to world fame but was ultimately persecuted with his family and died at the hands of the Nazis in a camp in 1944.  Second, it is a gripping account of the Gypsy persecution during the Holocaust.  Lacking an influential and well placed diaspora and important institutional support, the Gypsy story has been ignored or consigned to footnotes heretofore.  Only now is the tragedy finally emerging after some sixty years of neglect. Nirenberg's book will take its place as a major contribution to this belated awakening.  Third, the book reaches back long before Trollmann to sketch the history of the Gypsy migration into Europe and the centuries of persecution of this the largest unsettled minority in Europe.  As Nirenberg forcefully points out even today the European Gypsies have an uncertain existence, still discriminated against, humiliated and misunderstood.  Only fitfully have Europeans now come to recognize their debts to the past and their responsibilities for the future.    Nirenberg has gripping, fluent style and his book is strongly recommended.

        __Prof. Ernest Latham, Ph.D., historian instructor (retired), US Department of State - Foreign Service Institute


  • Johann Trollmann's story is one that opens up long-overlooked histories of resistance and protest against Nazi rule. It take us the hidden history of Roma and Sinti resistance to Hitler, but also of the links between that resistance to longer struggles for recognition for Roma and Sinti as citizens, as artists and sports figures, as intellectuals and activists, as everyday people, and as part of larger histories of Europe.

        __Professor Ethel Brooks, Rutgers University




 
  • In the Ring With Jack Johnson - Part II: The Reign



 
  • In the Ring With John L. Sullivan



 
  • Jack Sharkey: A Heavyweight Champion's Untold Story
-Written by James Curl

 
  • Marty Mulcahey at Undisputed Champion Network online reviews Black Ink in his article about new and upcoming boxing books.
        
Black Ink” by Jose Corpas (Aug. 1, 2016) – Given how Latino boxers are revered and glorified today, it is hard to imagine that the first Hispanic champion (Cuba’s Panama Al Brown) was nearly beaten by a crowd after a fight in what the author says would be termed a “hate crime” today. Astute comparisons and word play like that make this an enjoyable and educational read, which goes past boxing and addresses long-held claims that Panama Al Brown was homosexual. It is a cradle-to-grave bio, from Brown’s childhood as the son of a former American slave (which I was unaware of) to his final days as a forgotten and destitute ex-champion living on the streets found unconscious and near death in New York City. Of course, it covers the exceptional times as well in Paris and Spain, living the life of luxury and later, as when Brown was part of the Harlem Renaissance during his glorious comeback to the ring. The barriers Brown knocked down and overcame were monumental for their time and this book is equally exceptional.