Far from the gentler retrospect of A Fall From Aloft (1969), this is a massively brutal short book about a prizefight in which the old (49) champ, Sam Sailor Saltus, takes on the young black contender Phineas Fox in the first pepper-and-salt fight staged in Bermuda. Sailor needs the winner's money for his mother -- the only woman he's ever really loved -- who is facing cancer surgery. While the Fox, a great crowd-pleaser (and swinger -- the sex seems gratuitous) is dancing all over the ring, Sailor, ""looking as heavy as an old water barge,"" sags during the first four rounds and seems unlikely to go the distance. But his handler and surrogate father, Gilbert, the ""old funeral director,"" keeps him on his feet with benzedrine and salt tablets and ammonia and even the captious (also hard to explain) offer of a $25,000 U.S. purse to the loser, doesn't change the direction of the fight. ""A good fighter has his dream and his dream is of winning"" and the Sailor is back in there round by incapacitating round. . . . No one needs any reminder of the fatuity of this non-sport which the book proves while at the same time obscuring the intention since the bloody action repudiates it all the way. The book has a visceral immediacy beyond its canvas cliche situation and you can't get away from it during those split seconds out of the ring.