Mike Silver's 'The Arc of Boxing' by Clay Moyle, author of Sam Langford: Boxing’s Greatest Uncrowned Champion. Cyberboxingzone.com
I loved everything about this book. In my opinion it should be required reading for anyone who is inclined to post on any of the various on-line boxing forums to debate the merits of boxers from different eras. Mr. Silver maintains that the golden age of boxing occurred during the period of 1925 to 1955, and his book is chock full of interesting statistics to support this claim. Consider for example that in 1927 there were 2,000 licensed professional boxers residing in the state of New York, and that over 900 boxing shows were promoted throughout the state. In 2006 the state licensed 50 pro boxers and staged just 38 shows. Or that during the 1920’s and 1930’s approximately 8,000 – 10,000 professional boxers were licensed annually in the U.S., while in 2006 that figure had dropped to 2,850. And how about the fact that in 1925 a fighter had engaged in an average of 84 professional contests before fighting for the title, while in 2007 a fighter had fought an average of only 27 times before receiving a shot at a title. Facts like these, and many, many others shared in this book make it awful difficult to believe that the overall quality of fighters were witnessing today can compare with that of the “golden age”.
Mr. Silver’s fine book is filled with quotes from a panel of experts including the likes of Teddy Atlas, Emanuel Steward, Hank Kaplan, Carolos Ortiz, Freddie Roach, and numerous others, on a wide range of topics including inflated knockout percentages of today, the deterioration of trainers and boxing skills, the use of weights and punching pads, and the general decline in knowledge among not only trainers and boxers, but fans and the media covering the sport.
I found the chapter titled ‘Boxing’s Death by Alphabet’ concerning the dilution of the prestige of a world title particularly enlightening. Anyone who has followed the history of the sport at all is well aware that there are many more weight divisions today than in the past, and that there are multiple “world champions” for each weight as a result of the various organizations in existence today such as the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO. But some of the facts shared in this chapter are just astounding. For example, “in the 1950’s there were approximately 5,000 fighters worldwide, and generally eight weight divisions, with one champion in each. That breaks down to one champ every 625 boxers. Today, with just the major sanctioning bodies and not counting the whackos, you have about one ‘world champion’ for every sixty-nine pros.”
There wasn’t much in Mr. Silver’s book that I disagree with. There is a lot more that I could say about all of the interesting facts and comments provided by the panel of experts concerning the numerous subjects covered in this book, but I’ll stop here and just say that I found it a very interesting read, and I highly recommend it for all boxing fans.