Book Review - Dog Rounds: Death and Life in the Boxing Ring


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Book - Dog Rounds: Death and Life in the Boxing Ring Author - Elliot Worsell Published - 13th July 2017 Amazon link - Star Rating – 4 out of 5.

If you plan to read this book (and for any boxing fans; indeed, any sports fans, I heartily recommend it), you're going to need to brace yourself. As you'd expect in a book with such a title, it's not exactly a walk in the park, but it's not the stories and interviews that will necessarily cause you the challenge – you're going to end up wondering if you should be watching boxing at all.

Anyone who's watched sport for any length of time (and if you're on this site, I'm guessing you have) will have heard the word 'tragedy' used incorrectly as part of the hyperbole that surrounds so much sport this days. This book deals directly with a number of real tragedies, and speaks to many of those involved. This isn't an easy read, but it's an enthralling one.

The irony is that the fight at the centre of the book doesn't end in tragedy – although it could so easily have done so. The meeting of Chris Eubank Jr and Nick Blackwell in March 2016 (after which the latter was placed in a medically induced coma) forms the spine of the book, but plenty of other fights make their mark on the reader.

The author (also a journalist who's regularly written for The Ring and Boxing News) was closely involved in the Eubank Jr/Blackwell fight (as the press officer), but was already writing a book on deaths in boxing – it's a horrible coincidence that he very nearly got first hand experience of something he'd been writing about for some months.

The book gets going quickly, taking us behind the scenes at the Eubank Jr/Blackwell fight. There's added piquancy, of course, with the presence of Chris Eubank Sr, who had a fight with Michael Watson with a similar outcome in 1991. The March 2016 fight is constantly returned to in the book, but there's plenty of room for other stories.

Unfortunately most of the other stories only have the tale told from one side, because the other protagonist didn't make it – although there are views from family members, friends, trainers and so on – you never feel you're only getting one view. Most poignantly, all the surviving boxers have obviously been deeply affected, even many years later, by what happened.

Hamilton 'Rocky' Kelly, for example, who, in the press conference before his fatal fight with Steve Watt in 1986, said 'I'm willing to die for this'. If you heard that now, you'd put it down to hype and the need to sell tickets. Boxing is different to other sports, by a factor impossible to compute, because of what's on the line. But still they box.

The author does a great job of putting the featured fights into context – there's enough detail to understand what went on, without the need for any over the top or graphic descriptions (except when required to explain the damage done). The boxers he speaks to also, generally, come across well – as humans who've had to deal with consequences they couldn't ever, realistically, have envisaged.

In most cases, the fights discussed were between fighters of generally similar ability, at least on paper – although the account I found most emotive was the meeting of Gabriel Ruelas and Jimmy Garcia in 1995. It seems the latter was completely overmatched, and that seems to make the story all the sadder, for everyone involved.