The sharp images and swift pacing of Lipsyte's (Michael Jordan: A Life Above the Rim, p. 1535, etc.) young-adult novels match his veteran sportswriter's knowledge in this biography of a boxer who became a symbol of African-American pride and, as Lipsyte shows, much more. Avoiding the bland reportage of most children's nonfiction, Lipsyte conveys Louis's story through rich, sensual detail. As the young Louis steps into a Detroit gym, Lipsyte depicts vividly how, amid the stink of ointment and sweat, Louis decides to study the ""sweet science."" Yet Lipsyte sacrifices no balance for punch. Louis's every move in and out of the ring brought him the scrutiny of public and press alike. Blacks needed a hero, and many whites waited to see if Louis would, like his boxing predecessor Jack Johnson, turn ""uppity,"" enjoying high living and white women. Louis retained his integrity and identity under these and other pressures, and Lipsyte demonstrates that Louis was never fully the straight arrow whites expected nor the emblem some blacks needed. He was an extraordinary athlete whose consummate skill was frequently attributed to natural African physicality. Lipsyte writes: ""It was as if Joe had not trained hard to hone his skill. And the editorial suggested that his managers wanted him to be 'a credit to his race.' What did that mean?"" Challenging, readable; this is a deft portrait of a larger-than-life figure done in refreshingly human proportions.