Book Review: Ring Wars by Harry Mullan

Overall the book is interesting, despite being short and often out dated, strangely however to the best of my knowledge an update hasn’t even been published in the decade or so since the release. If Bob Mee’s reading, how about you further this one too? After all he has had a brilliant continuation of the Encyclopaedias that Mullan did.

The book ends on a section about the Arenas with is like the promoters a nice addition but nothing special, almost a bonus chapter to talking about Wembley, Madison Square Garden and MGM grand. Again this could perhaps have a feeling of being out dated by an ever changing sport, as fighters have started to head away from Casino’s the dominant force of the 1970’s and 1980’s to bigger sporting stadiums. Things like the Schalke football stadium, the Cardiff Arena, the MEN arena, York Hall, and small more intimate venues in boxers local area. Thomasz Adamek has been found fighting in his adopted area to be profitable with a loyal Polish contingent often showing up or his fights.

The section finishes with the Tyson v Holyfield I contest fought in late 1996 which saw Tyson’s myth finally ended (whilst Buster Douglas had merely exposed it). So for those expecting to hear o any latter contests I’m afraid they aren’t to be found, the book could well do with an update mainly for this section.Then the 1980’s kicks in with the great Duran v Leonard I fight and the heart dropping Hagler v Hearns contests highlighting the decade. Both contests became synonymous with the fighters in them and the 1980’s boxing world was hooked on the 4 men as they used their own styles against each other to relatively mind boggling contests. The amazing contest between Ali and Frazier (the first one) is next on the list, and for anyone who’s old enough to remember it, Mullan’s words will remind you of the glory of the two warriors battling over the world crown, 2 undefeated “champions”, 2 gold medallists and 2 great fighters putting it all on the line in what would be one of the most memorable contests of all time.The it goes on to talk about the original Carmen Basilio V Sugar Ray Robinson fight which was an enthralling fight from start to end. Chapter 4 starts on page 71 and is effectively the the “ring wars” (though the book terms them “Classic Fights”. For younger boxing viewers they need to remember the Gatti-Ward trilogy, the Corrales-Castillo I fight and the mind blowing Cotto-Margarito fight were all much later in hisotry than the books release. The first is a write up of the Willie “Will o’ the Wisp” Pep V Sandy Saddler fights, where were some of the best of all time and a series so well fought that the results often appeared like the skilled Pep would rather fight than show his true defensive mastery.

Page 53 starts chapter 3 “The Legends” which was Mullans pick of the great heavyweights, starting with Muhammad Ali (alphabetically), and going through Dempsey, Frazier, Johnson, Liston, Louis, Marciano and finally Tyson. Each fighter is given 1 side for a summary and 1 side almost soley devoted to pictures with a “form line” explaining things like birth, residence, death, fights and titles.

Chapter 2 starts on page 41 and is entitled “The entertainers” this was much more the fighters of the day and the upcoming stars of the late 1990’s. Fighters like Oscar De La Hoya, Julian Jackson, Bernard Hopkins, Prince Naseem Hamed, Roy Jones Jnr, the little seen Ricardo “Finito” Lopez, Lennox Lewis, Kosta Tsyzu and Pernell Whittaker. Though some of these fighters seemed to throw away what they could have been (most notably American Heavyweight Riddick Bowe, who failed drastically to achieve his potential) the fighters often did end up at the top of their divisions, or several of them.

The the book starts for real on page 19 with a chapter about “modern greats” (remember the book was released in 1997). Opening with the great Alexis Arguello (who has recently passed away so RIP Alexis) who retired in 1995 and finishing with Aaron Pryor, the “modern” greats appears no more than a who’s who of the best of the 1980’s. Most of the fighters did admittedly fight in the 1990’s but many were shells (Roberto Duran for instance) of their prime.

The first part (almost a pre-chapter) is on the power brokers (organisations) and the promoters (basically the managers) mentioning how the boxing world had changed and how the sport runs with multiple “governing bodies”. Although this is useful for those with very basic understanding of professional boxing, to fans of the sport it will be second nature to them already. Mentions of the deal makers like Frank Warren, Bob Arum, The Duva’s and of course Don King are again nice but a little basic.

The book at 96 pages may seem short but with it’s picture heavy style it’s obvious that it’s not aimed at those wanting to know the finer points of the sport. The book opens with wonderful glossy pictures before a preface by the author with more pictures, as you can tell already, it’s a rather photo laden book which is a little weird considering that Mullans major books often appear to be text dominant with a sprinkling of pictures.

Mullan was arguably Britain’s premier boxing writer for the vast part of the latter 1900’s and was regularly seen as the biggest authority on the sport as far as writing. This was one of his lesser known books released in 1997 about 2 years before his untimely death aged 53 from Cancer.Harry Mullan’s Ring Wars is a relatively hard to find book (in fact whilst trying to do some research on the product I couldn’t even find a picture online) much unlike his successful “Ultimate Boxing Encyclopaedia” which appears to continue strongly even after his untimely death.