Quite simply, the best book on the fight game since Liebling's The Sweet Science. To provide a framework for the narrative (whose title alludes to the effect of knockout punches and to boxing's ghetto heritage), Hauser follows Billy Costello during a three-month period through November 3, 1985, when he successfully defended his WBC superlightweight crown, thrashing an outclassed challenger named Saoul Mamby. The then-undefeated Costello (who lost the championship in an August bout at Madison Square Garden), his manager (Mike Jones), and trainer (Victor Valle) rank among the few nice guys in a sport where only the ring is square. The jury is still out on white hope Gerry Cooney, a Costello stablemate who has been a reluctant dragon since Larry Holmes stopped him in a mid-1982 match for the heavyweight title. Costello and Cooney, though, are but pieces of the action. Hauser takes a long, hard look at the individuals and institutions that effectively control their destinies. At stage center are the television networks and Don King--the hard-working ex-con who parlayed a personal relationship with Muhammad All into a promotional monopoly that might make Jim Norris (late proprietor of the notorious IBC) envious. The open secrets of King's success include an uncanny capacity to secure TV exposure for favored pugs (notably, those handled by his stepson, Carl) and close ties to Jose Sulaiman, enigmatic president of the WBC, the sport's dominant sanctioning body. In addition to superb reportage on the constant power struggles that can and do affect the careers of babyweights like Costello, Hauser offers informed commentary on the mechanics as well as appeal of prizefighting. Though demonstrably cruel and violent, he observes at one point, boxing, ""the only sport practiced and cheered the world over. . .tells us much about human potential and about ourselves."" The author accomplishes no less himself.