Debut novel about boxing, by a sportswriter and former Golden Gloves champion.
Amos “Scrap Iron” Fletcher is a sparring partner for David Diggs, a heavyweight contender training for his first title fight. An intelligent journeyman, Fletcher has neither the sheer punching power nor the charisma to reach the highest level of the game, and he knows it. He also knows his boxing lore. Fletcher’s idol is Sonny Liston, former heavyweight champion whose Las Vegas grave he likes to visit. The night before the big fight, Fletcher gets the call to replace TNT (another of Diggs’s sparring mates) in an undercard bout; he takes a beating from the up-and-coming opponent but earns a cool $20,000. Then, in a major upset, Diggs defeats the champion, T-Bone Taylor. Bitter after his loss, Taylor accuses Fletcher of offering to sell him inside tips on Diggs’s weaknesses. (In fact, Taylor tried to buy the information from Fletcher, who refused.) Suspended, Fletcher goes home to Trenton to decide what to do next. His uncle, who owns a gym, takes him in and Fletcher begins working with younger fighters, finding that he enjoys it. Musing over the last loss, he realizes that another tough fight could injure him permanently, and he decides to retire. Almost immediately, TNT, whose arrest gave Fletcher his big payday, shows up, looking for a trainer so he can get back into the game. Fletcher takes him on and hones him into a contender—at the same time angling for his revenge for Taylor’s double-cross. While the denouement is a bit predictable, DeVido has a flair for tough, street-wise characters, and his intelligent insider’s view of the fight game is absorbing as well as convincing. The dialogue and action are also sharp, and Fletcher’s musings on boxing history—especially Liston’s life and personality—should appeal especially to thinking fans.
Well-written and fast-moving: a strong debut.