ReadingRoom

Bob Jones gets in the ring

Boxing historian Bob Jones comes out swinging against a book by a Kiwi boxing promoter

There are more books written about boxing than any other sport. I have a collection of about 3500 books on the sport and can be regarded as a boxing historian. Mike Edwards is described as a "legend" in the sub-title of his autobiography Taking the Punches: The life of legendary boxing promoter Mike Edwards – but I'd never heard of the bloke. Reading his book revealed why.

Edwards, it transpired, is one of literally hundreds of individuals, boxing associations and such-like who have tried to promote professional boxing in this country over the past half century. Only two have been conspicuous; first the wonderfully outrageous Londoner Len Russell in the 1970s with his South Pacific Boxing Association (I was its president) and then in recent years, the fearless David Higgins and his large-scale DUCO promotions. That said, both Len and David learnt it’s no path to riches.

Edwards seems to have a grossly misplaced sense of his importance. The biggest crowd he ever drew was 4000 at Carlaw Park, in 1982. Otherwise he’s been about as small-time as one can be, often promoting tiny audience bouts in provincial towns and on one occasion, unbelievably, in an Auckland Chinese Restaurant. Another fight was at the DB Tavern in Mangere.

He brags of the “championship” bouts he’s organised, ignoring the fact his “titles” have all been utterly bogus of the nonsensical Pan Asian variety. He seems unaware that the “The World Boxing Association”, to whom he paid to “sanction” his various fictitious title bouts and writes of with awe, are backed by Venezuelan-based scamsters.

I once tried to get a bet for £100,000 with some English boxing notables that I could get the WBA to rate me in their top 10 flyweight ratings. US$20,000 would have done it. There were no takers. Some years ago, the WBA rated a fighter who was then killed in a motor accident. Over the next six months, although dead, he reached the pinnacle of his career, rising each month in the ratings.

If you’re going to write about any subject it’s desirable to know something about it. Edwards is spectacularly ignorant of boxing’s history.

For example, he writes “boxing dates back to ancient Greece and Rome,” both assertions being wrong. In fact, it dates back 5,000 years to ancient Mesopotamia and is the first recorded sport. It thrived for some time in ancient Greece, then died until being resurrected with a bout in England in the late 17th century. It was banned in ancient Rome, the Romans placing a huge beauty premium on teeth and thus it was a serious offence to damage them.

My boxing library includes some excellent autobiographies by minor level boxers who still had a story to tell. Edwards could have provided such an account of his involvement but chose instead to glorify it. What saddens me about this is Edwards writes well and with warmth, particularly in the chapters devoted to Monty Betham Snr and Jnr. He's also good on boxers Anthony Bigeni ("his drinking niggled at me…[but], boy, he could take a punch better than anyone I've ever known or even seen') and Lindsay Christiansen, who he hints spent time in prison. There's a range of photos, and some inside gossip as he puts down journalists Hedley Mortlock and Jim Mahoney. But the book's failings are best illustrated in his section on David Tua. He writes, "I was never inside the camp of David Tua, but I do believe I can offer some insights into his career…"

Taking The Punches: The life of legendary boxing promoter Mike Edwards by Mike Edwards with David Kemeys and Phil Gifford (HarperCollins, $35) is available in bookstores nationwide.

 
 

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