A fond recollection of the boxing career of an unlikely heavyweight championship contender.
Terry Daniels burst onto the American sports scene in 1972 when, as a senior at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, he fought Joe Frazier for the heavyweight boxing championship of the world. His unlikely rise to prominence—he took up boxing only after a knee injury forced him to give up football—seems like the stuff of Rocky. Daniels’ brother seeks to honor the champ’s legacy, vividly describing his fights but ultimately delivering a hagiography that avoids discussion of the darker aspects of boxing. The book begins by recalling the author’s excitement as an 18-year-old watching Terry fight Frazier—he and his siblings were “thrilled to see this ‘Cinderella’ story for their big brother come to life”—and then goes back in time to Daniels’ childhood in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, when Terry first ventured into the ring. In Texas, the sport “ranked in popularity with football and baseball...and Terry was about to discover a whole new world,” Daniels writes. There were some parental misgivings; their mother asked, “How can you stand to be in such a vicious sport?” But these didn’t stop him from rising quickly through the amateur ranks before turning pro in 1970. A fight with Floyd Patterson is particularly memorable; Terry said afterward, “He had moves I’d never seen.” While the fight scenes often pop with detail—“Terry was eye-level with the floor of the ring and could see small drops of blood that speckled the canvas”—Daniels’ brother largely remains a flat character who shrugs off every setback with a prayer. While the author glosses the physical consequences of fighting, he does reveal in the epilogue that, like many retired boxers, Terry now suffers from dementia, having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 50, and is in an assisted-living home. Daniels’ takeaway, however, is that “hard work and dedication pays off.”
While the fight descriptions are vivid, the subject remains one-dimensional.