Herbert G. Goldman has served as editor for The Ring, Boxing Illustrated, and Boxing Digest and thus has an impressive track record as a commentator and observer of boxing. Whatever else one might say of his Boxing the word “inconsequential” would not figure in any review. Goldman’s reference text is both mammoth and massive. The amount of detail is such that a general sports reader with an interest in boxing could be, literally, overwhelmed, and swept away by, the sheer volume of material.
Boxing is a four-volume series divided into six sections. Section one has alphabetical entries of bare knuckle boxers and the traditional and Queensberry Rules time period. This latter category profiles 2,600 boxers and provides dates of birth, place of birth, nicknames, a list of fights, and career statistics. A reading of these profiles is an intriguing [End Page 541] portal into a bygone era and gives fascinating pictures of a bloody and brutal pastime. Take the entry on Jack Bartholomew, born in Brentford, England, in 1773:
The son of a Brentford gardener, Batholomew was invited to London after attacking and capturing a highwayman on the London-Brentford road and passed a trial before boxing Fearby. He served as personal bodyguard and sparring instructor to Lord Camelford, who became his patron, after beating Owen for the title. Bartholomew was arrested for breach of the peace after both of his fights with Belcher. He died, officially from cirrhosis of the liver, in an alms house in Westminster, having left his body to physicians(p. 7).
A death at the age of thirty testifies to a savage sport. Another entry on a Simon Byrne, notes that he died three days after a fight—“a doctor testified that an examination of Byrne’s brain suggested that the exertion of fighting could have killed him, rather than the punches he received” (p. 8).
Part II of Boxing examines other personnel and compiles facts and figures on referees, judges, time-keepers, promoters, matchmakers, booking agents, publicists, managers, trainers, cutmen, ring announcers, ring side commentators, historians, record keepers, and compilers. Part III has an encyclopedic record of all world title fights from 1878 up until 2010. Part IV records listings of both amateur and professional contests, while Part V presents material on the organization of boxing, the historical development and evolution of various weight divisions, and concludes with a narrative on boxing halls of fame.
Part VI gives a gestalt of boxing and might well be the most relevant and useful for general readers and sports historians eager to see what part boxing plays in the complex mosaic of modern athletics. Entitled “Boxing and Culture,” this concluding portion of Boxing examines Ancient Greek champions and serves up a potted history of boxing, a discussion of boxing demographics, a list of equipment and equipment makers, and describes selected boxing venues and gymnasia. Radio and television boxing broadcasts are a part of this broad canvas and, finally, boxing is placed on the popular culture continuum and its contribution is assessed in the spheres of literature, drama (theatre), cinema and the arts.
In his preface to Boxing Goldman makes some telling points about the role of boxing in American life:
One could, in fact, make the case for boxing, not baseball, as the number one spectator sport in the United States from, roughly, 1896 to 1956. Virtually every city of any size in the country had a regular pro boxing show (roughly, every two weeks in the smaller cities, once a week in medium-sized cities, and several times weekly in major metropolitan centers like New York and Philadelphia). Boxing most importantly, was there year round(p. 1).
Just to emphasize his argument about boxing’s prominence Goldman makes this telling comment:
Anyone who cares to look up the report of Babe Ruth’s 60th home run of the 1927 season in the last two editions of the October 1 New York Daily News will be shocked to find that it...