Bunce's Big Fat Short History of Boxing Review

Books

ByTheMinBoxing

Book - Bunce's Big Fat Short History of British Boxing Author – Steve Bunce Published – Out Now (May 2017) Amazon link - https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0593078705 Star Rating – 3.5 out of 5.

As titles for books go, this one couldn't really be much more direct. But whilst I agree with the words 'Bunce' (it's undeniably him, staring out at use from the cover, somehow lacking his usual jovial look), 'Fat' (no pamphlet this), and 'History of British Boxing' (although of course it includes lots of other places), I may have to take issue with 'Short' (more than 450 pages)...

I'm being slightly facetious, of course, as I assume the use of 'Short' here refers to the period covered, rather than the length of the book. But even then I think it's being undersold, as it's covering nearly 50 years of the sport as seen from the British perspective. So whilst that 50 years may be a relatively short period, the book is very comprehensive on that period.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of listening or watching Steve Bunce discuss boxing will know that he's obviously very knowledgable on the noble art, and always seems to have a story or two. This book makes use of all that expertise, and tries to put it all in a coherent order. Generally, it does a great job, but there are a couple of issues to note.

So what do we have here? A pretty straightforward idea, really – a chapter covering each year from 1970 to 2016 inclusive, all focused on British boxing/boxers of the relevant period, the fights they were involved in, the behind the scenes politics and so on. Each chapter is around the same length (eight pages or so) – there's no bias towards more recent history. The chapters are also formatted in the same way – one main section, then a couple of separate bits – 'The Contenders' and 'From the Notepad'.

There are undoubtedly lots of fascinating titbits here – for example, I wasn't aware that so many fights, including surprisingly high profile ones, were held in private clubs in front of gents in dinner suits, and are therefore to some extent lost to history, with no video/photographic evidence that they ever happened. Bunce also has a wealth of stories about the fighters, managers, trainers and other characters that populate this great sport.

The chapters are very much 'bite sized', and I like the idea of them all being the same size – I had assumed there would be more focus on the last 20 years or so, so it's very enjoyable to be able to read about the names I'd perhaps only vaguely heard of – or didn't know at all.

Whilst the book focusses on British boxers, it's not as parochial as you might think from the title – the British fights and fighters are usually put into the international context, which is welcome. It's also clear that Bunce thinks British boxing has come a long way since 1970 – lots of champions now (even accounting for the myriad sanctioning bodies), very few through the first decade covered in the book.

There is, in short, a lot of information in this book, and this is where I come to one of my issues with it. I think it's admirable that there's so much here, but sometimes that does affect the writing style a bit – things can seem a bit rushed, like there's a desire to cram lots of stuff into too few pages. I don't know enough (anything!) about publishing, but another couple of pages per chapter would only have added 100 pages and may well have allowed Bunce to relax the style a bit. I appreciate his desire to share all the information, but it can leave one feeling a little overwhelmed.

Or of course that could just be me. I can see some people absolutely loving this book and lapping up every page – perhaps I'm just too casual a boxing fan to fully appreciate it. A book of this nature also suffers slightly from the 'this happened, then this, then this' phenomenon – unavoidable, perhaps, even though the stories do break things up.