- Boxing in New Mexico, 1868-1940 by Chris Cozzone and Jim Boggoi
Boxing in New Mexico is divided into five sections—The Territorial Years, 1868-1911; The First Golden Age of Boxing, 1912-1917; War, 1916-1922; The Second Golden Age of Boxing, 1922-1932; and, The Final Golden Age of Boxing, 1932-1940. The authors of Boxing in New Mexico have an extensive background in reporting, studying, and observing the sport. Cozzone is a freelance writer, photographer, and historian who has crafted some delightfully edgy narratives in The Ring magazine. The late Jim Boggio (d. 1997) was a journalist and a former chairman of the New Mexico Athletic Commission. Cozzone admits, in his preface, that it was Boggio's vision, energy, and industry that launched the massive ground work for this impressive collection of historical commentaries. Boggio, before his death at the age of fifty-four, had spent a decade in examining no less than 423 fights that took place between 1868 and 1997. Cozzone describes his own odyssey, which was a period of seven years spent going through vast numbers of rolls of microfilm covering New Mexico newspapers. Cozzone writes of their combined efforts as a tag-team of boxing scribes.
Chris Cozzone's three-page preface is a clever overview of a sport that is never easy to categorize or explain. As he notes:
My subject matter has always been gritty—gangbangers, prisons and junkies—so it's no surprise to most that I gravitated toward a sport that can only be described as representing a dichotomy of everything that is ugly, and everything that is beautiful (p. 3).
Cozzone is adept at placing boxing and boxers as larger than life presences in the fabric of community, and social history:
The forgotten history of boxing in New Mexico is less about a sport than it is about boomtowns and ghost towns, the railroad and mines, race and politics and casinos. It's a story that includes every city, town and pueblo of the state, from Tucumcari to Gallup, Columbus to Raton, Albuquerque to Acoma. . . . [The sport] has been crammed tight with the generations of barrio-bred homeboys, laborers and miners who laced on a pair of Sol Levinsons [boxing gloves]—or fought bare knuckle—through the decades for, or in, New Mexico (pp. 4-5).
Boxing in New Mexico is buoyed up by Cozzone's and Boggio's passion and delight in writing about boxing. Their massive volume is full of surprises. Black-and-white illustrations are omnipresent, and the accompanying captions are never less than informed and detailed. This reviewer has not seen a better use made of program covers as historical side bars opening the doors to all manner of interpretation. For example, the program advertising a November 22, 1917, boxing championship contest between Rufus Williams and Thomas Hayden at the Crystal Theatre in Columbus, New Mexico, trumpets that it will be "A Grand Battle Royal between five huskie battlers of the rough and ready, slam-bang, [End Page 494] go-as-you please style" (p. 218). A footnote advertises that everybody is welcome to attend a grand ball once the contest was over.
Boxing in New Mexico also serves up some fascinating trivia in its glossary section. Some examples, "Bugs" are fans; "claret" is a bloody nose; "the fancy" were boxing spectators in the bare knuckle era; "jockery scrapper" refers to lower weight boxers; "throw up the sponge," was used as a give up sign before the other boxing phrase, "throw in the towel," came into use.
The chapter notes are incredibly detailed and, in terms of primary source depth, the authors list all of 150 newspapers. Happily, book sources are not ignored, and it is reassuring to read a boxing book that taps into the stellar writing offered up by Elliot Gorn, Michael Isenberg, Randy Roberts, and Geoffrey Ward.
While Boxing in New Mexico is not in the same history of sport league as Gorn, Isenberg...