Cover

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Half Title, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Prelude: Mountain Violence

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pp. 1-6

Shot fighters are always the last to know they are damaged goods. These are the guys who keep at it well past their prime, sluggers and maulers who just can’t seem to recognize what is obvious to the rest of us—the show’s over, it’s time to call it quits. Ask any competent boxing trainer and he’ll lay it out for you. Shot fighters require somebody to come along ...

Part 1: Corner Men: The Eden Story of Lo’s Gym Boxing Club

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Chapter 1: Fighting Noah Milton

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pp. 9-24

I can’t remember if his name was Noah Milton or if his name was Noah and he was from Milton, West Virginia. Either way, he was the first person to kick my ass. Noah was bigger and more intimidating than me. He had thick veiny biceps and a squared jawline. There was something redneck about him. He sported a tobacco-stained shit ring around his mouth, just like the vo-tech boys at my high school. ...

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Chapter 2: Tough Men

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pp. 25-40

Art Dore understood that everyone thinks they can box until they give it a try. He understood how most working-class men are conditioned to think about manhood. The business plan was simple but ingenious. The Toughman story begins in Bay City, Michigan, back in 1979.18 Dore, a former boxer and then promoter, rented cheap venues in remote sections of the state, ...

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Chapter 3: Lo's Gym

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pp. 41-56

When I was 12 years old, my father brought me to the face of a coal mine, and walked me about 100 yards into the darkness. He made me wear an oversized yellow hardhat but, looking back, I imagine the accessory was for effect.
“How’d you like to get up at four in the morning and come to this?” ...

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Chapter 4: Flex and the Rumble on the Hill

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pp. 57-71

On June 16, 1983, welterweight journeyman Luis Resto shocked the boxing world by upsetting undefeated prospect Billy Collins Jr. at Madison Square Garden. The bout was featured on the undercard of the Roberto Duran vs. Davey Moore fight and was televised on CBS Sports Spectacular. For those interested in the profession of training human beings for fistic combat, ...

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Chapter 5: Street Preacher

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pp. 72-94

About two months before Stephanie Nicole’s high school graduation, Stephanie’s father walked out to his garage, lit up a cigarette, and suffered a massive heart attack. Stephanie was 120 miles away at the West Virginia State High School Drama Competition, which, ironically, was being hosted at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse on Marshall University’s campus, ...

Part 2: Counterpunchers: Parables of Coal Country Pugilism

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Chapter 6: The Unlikely Reincarnation Story of Rick Cogar

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pp. 97-115

The Cowen Hotel sure was something, a beautiful three-story building located just off Main Street. The Community Market was located just a piece down the road. There was a movie theater and a bowling alley. There was a drugstore that sold comic books and Coke floats. There was an Odd Fellows Lodge and Lloyd Sims’s Exxon Gas Station and the Cowen Quick ...

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Chapter 7: Jeremiah and the Three Bears

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pp. 116-132

In the first bout of the 2004 West Virginia Silver Gloves tournament, Chris Ledsome hit Mitchell McCallum with a poleax uppercut that completely removed the loosely fastened Everlast headgear from Mitchell’s head and launched it into the air and out of the boxing ring. The headgear landed squarely in my lap at ringside. ...

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Chapter 8: Ring Girls

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pp. 133-148

In Strategies for Survival: Women’s Work in Southern West Virginia Coal Camps, Janet Greene positions the role of coal miner wife as an “integral [and often unrecognized] segment of the mining community” during the early days of West Virginia coal mining. As one might suspect, “women of the southern West Virginia coalfields had few employment ...

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Chapter 9: Appalachian Underdogs of the Squared Circle

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pp. 149-166

Talking Union was a risky move. You could be docked pay, fired, or branded a communist sympathizer. If the boss man pegged you a Red, that’d be the end of your coal mining career. Talking Union set off what most folks call the “Mine Wars.” It started with the Cabin Creek and Paint Creek strike of 1912. Those old boys were looking for fair pay and safer working conditions; they were Talking Union. ...

Part 3: Split Decisions: Stories from the Championship Rounds

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Chapter 10: Prizefighters

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pp. 169-184

Jason Bragg didn’t wake up one morning and decide to become a professional boxer. He didn’t have an epiphany, didn’t talk things over with his wife and come to the conclusion that professional boxing was something he had to do. Jason Bragg’s prizefighting ambitions were a festering sore buried somewhere deep underneath the surface; ...

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Chapter 11: Hillbilly Jefferson

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pp. 185-199

Zack Kuhn was the most decorated amateur boxer in the state of West Virginia. Zack fought out of the Van Boxing Club in Boone County. Long ropey arms, shaggy hair, the kid didn’t look like a champion, but he was. Zack won multiple state championships and had success at the national level. He’d fought in well over 100 amateur bouts by the time ...

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Chapter 12: Premature Stoppage

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pp. 200-218

Anthony Capone’s82 voicemail was the beginning of the end. Everything else is epilogue, the steady pop and crack of the mirror that doesn’t yet realize it is broken.
Auditors were scheduled to arrive at the Smooth Coal Company that day and, as warehouse manager, auditors always put my father on edge. My father’s cell phone was tucked away in his dinner bucket ...

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Dedication: Fighting Naton Leslie

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pp. 219-222

Naton Leslie lived my life and he wrote it all down and the stories were sad and funny and beautiful. He was a working-class Appalachian kid who wrote his way out of the sticks and into the pages of literary journals. He was Todd Snyder before I ever had a chance to be. The first 35 years of my life read like the pages of a Nate Leslie biography. ...

Notes

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pp. 223-228

Index

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pp. 229-232