Joe Grimm may not be a household name in boxing, but Grumeza’s retelling of the bantamweight’s story will entertain any fan of the sweet science.
Grimm was the Americanized name of Nageeb David Hashim, a Lebanese immigrant who scored 24 knockouts in a row to start his boxing career in Fall River, Mass. This should put him among the legends of the sport, “at least in a footnote,” Grumeza writes. Most of those knockouts came against unknown local and regional boxers at a time when boxing was coming into its golden age. Grimm’s is a story of what could have been: He could have been a champion if only he’d been given a better chance by his management team, if only he’d fought in a bigger market, if only his brother Mike hadn’t quashed his shot by being overly aggressive. And perhaps the biggest reason: if only Grimm hadn’t quit at 24 to join his family and their grocery business in Pittsfield, Mass. Grimm’s punch was devastating, but he would often step back when an opponent was reeling, and he’d never hit anyone when they’re down. Grumeza tells Grimm’s story as if he were writing a novel, not a historical document, which is where he might get into trouble with some of his audience. He fictionalized the story to some extent, inventing several minor characters he believes represent people typical of the time, and the dialogue is guesswork, as reconstructed from interviews with some of Grimm’s descendants. Grumeza makes a fine effort to place the events in the context of their times, offering the backgrounds of boxers who were active at the time as well as the histories of the towns in which the happenings took place. After leading off with some of the more exciting events, Grumeza sometimes has to backtrack and repeat parts of the story. But the narrative evens out after the first few chapters, when Grumeza gets down to the boxing. He has a knack for drawing out the natural drama of a fight, and his writing makes a solid case for Grimm being remembered not just for his boxing prowess, but for his noble approach to the sport.
A winning story that’s hard to trust as history.