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Ghosts of Manila


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About the Author

Mark Kram was senior boxing writer for Sports Illustrated for eleven years and covered all the major prizefights during that period. His articles on boxing have been widely anthologized. Kram has waited 25 years to write this book - his coverage of the Ali/Frazier fight in Manila was recently voted the best piece of deadline reporting in Sports Illustrated's history.


Kram, who covered boxing for Sports Illustrated for more than a decade, tells the story of Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali's epic 1975 Manila fight, and the bitter and complex rivalry between the two men that preceded it. He begins his story when the men, both black Southerners, are isolated and in retirement. Ali calls Manila "the greatest fight" of his life, while Frazier remains obsessively consumed by his hatred of Ali. Kram is intent on undoing the media "romance history" of Ali as civil rights hero; "hagiographers," he writes, "never tire of trying to persuade us that he ranked second only to Martin Luther King, but... Ali was not a social force." Frazier and Ali began as friends, but professional competition and divergent views on race turned theirs into a rivalry that had a lasting effect on professional sport and perhaps changed the meaning of race, especially for African-Americans, in postwar America. Kram explores the fighters' serial wives and mixed-up families, as well as their shifting, hunting packs of managers and assistants Ali's Black Muslim handlers in particular ("They were into profit and running things like Papa Doc was running Haiti"). Describing the powerful title event, Kram's prose is heavy with metaphors, not all of them helpful ("Ali's legs searched for the floor like one of Baudelaire's lost balloons"), and some of the narrative reads like his earlier accounts of the fights pasted together. Still, overall this is a daring, intelligent and well-observed piece of sportswriting. (May) Forecast: Boxing is reclaiming its popularity. Author appearances in New York and Washington, D.C., along with a 50-city radio campaign, should help this fine book attract attention. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

'The best boxing book I've ever read' Tony Parsons 'A marvellous revisionist tale of the Ali legend' Sunday Times

Kram, a former Sports Illustrated writer whose account of the 1975 Ali-Frazier "Thrilla in Manila" is acknowledged as the finest deadline boxing piece ever turned in, has watched Muhammad Ali's painful deterioration and sanctification by the press ever since. The book is built around the celebrated Ali-Frazier rivalry and its costs to both men. Kram's accounts of their three great battles are terrific literary set pieces that call on all his old skills. In between, though, Ali fans must wade through one ugly anecdote after another specifically selected to counter Ali "hagiography" and David Remnick's 1999 portrait of him as a kind of Civil Rights figure. Kram's Ali a racial ideologue, Muslim dupe, and chronic philanderer is not a guy you'd have light the Olympic Torch, and however true the book's simple thesis decent country boy Frazier scarred by the manipulative, cruel, name-calling Champ it was already advanced in Frazier's autobiography. Kram's book is alternately elegiac about the contests themselves and sourly dismissive of the surrounding goofy pageant of 1970s America. When Kram is not trading in dark gossip but reporting first-hand on their youthful ring clashes or his conflicted visits with the fighters since, his joy in writing resurfaces and his accumulated baggage is safely stowed away. For Frazier fans and all sports collections. Nathan Ward, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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