Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “On Boxing” as Want to Read:
On Boxing
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

On Boxing

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  841 Ratings  ·  95 Reviews
A reissue of bestselling, award-winning author Joyce Carol Oates' classic collection of essays on boxing.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 29th 2006 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published February 20th 1987)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about On Boxing, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about On Boxing

The Fight by Norman MailerUnforgivable Blackness by Geoffrey C. WardThe Sweet Science by A.J. LieblingThe Devil and Sonny Liston by Nick ToschesKing of the World by David Remnick
Best Books on Boxing and Boxers
17th out of 157 books — 63 voters
Moneyball by Michael LewisFriday Night Lights by H.G. BissingerSeabiscuit by Laura HillenbrandThe Blind Side by Michael LewisOpen by Andre Agassi
Top reads for sports fans
348th out of 604 books — 601 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,684)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Dec 27, 2011 Jessica rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fight fans (probably no one else)
Shelves: phys-ed, dicklits
I am really pissed off, because I spent a long time writing a whole long review of this book but then this fucking website just spontaneously erased it.

But whatever. It wasn't a great review by any means. I'll just write another, similarly mediocre one.

Being as I'm a lady boxing enthusiast who likes to read books, for years I've been vaguely embarrassed about not having ever got around to this. Now I finally have, and I'm not sure how to rate it -- there was stuff I really liked in here, but by
Dec 29, 2008 Sebastian rated it liked it
The first half of this book is outstanding. In a lengthy essay, Oates ruminates on boxing from a number of fascinating angles, discussing issues including idealized masculinity, the appeal of violence, the draw of the sport on writers, and the experience of being a true "other" watching a boxing match. While she sometimes seems to be making overbroad generalizations, even when she swings and misses this is a hugely entertaining and interesting impressionistic take on boxing.

The next portion, a
Dec 09, 2014 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: no-ficción, e
Me he visto obligado a dar 4 estrellas a este libro porque es un gran ensayo. La autora compone una obra en la que toca todos los puntos (del boxeo profesional americano) desde dos ópticas: entrando de lleno como aficionada acérrima a este deporte y por momentos elevándose hasta captar el resto de la fotografía, lo que ven los detractores. No intenta convencer a nadie, sólo habla de lo que sabe (y evidentemente sabe mucho). Es un libro que puede gustar a todo el mundo en mayor o menor grado a pe ...more
Jul 26, 2012 Alana rated it it was amazing
Recommended by Stacy Kaye - possibly my favorite book that I've ever read. It's a collection of long essays, and some material does repeat, so be prepared for that. The writing is...beyond beautiful. It's a work of art; 'non-fiction' doesn't begin to describe it. Her observations on masculinity and violence are inflammatory and thought provoking. Her writing about race, poverty, and athletes as entertainment is profound. Really excellent.
Jun 30, 2016 York rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No voy a mentir, este ensayo tenía años ignorado en mi e-reader, pero luego de ver Southpaw sentí la urgencia de leer más sobre el tema. Intuía que en la película había algo muy disrruptivo sobre el ritual del boxeo, tan sutil pero tan presente que hacía que fuera confundida con una trama convencional, cuando en realidad apuesta por ser todo lo contrario. Por fortuna este libro me ayudó a entender más la mística en torno al box.

Aquí la escritora se avienta un ensayo que empieza brutal, renegando
Apr 07, 2014 Ryan rated it really liked it
This was an interesting read. I love Joyce Carol Oates. I love how she doesn't shy away from any topic. Lots of people kind of assume that the boxing world is owned by men, and that it shouldn't be of interest to women, especially female academics. Of course, Joyce Carol Oates is gonna punch right through that shit.

She always brings a unique perspective to her subject matter. She blends psychology, sociology, history, a her classic literary and poetic insights to the conceptual dichotomies in t
May 25, 2016 Charles rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfic-sports
This is a collection of essays on boxing. Some have to do with Muhammad Ali, and more revolve around Mike Tyson. I guess these must have been written over a fairly long period of time and then collected in this book. The early essays were good and informative, but there was a lot of redundancy toward the end, and even a few places where the author seemingly contradicted things she'd said earlier. The book was also published in 1994 and there have been huge changes in the boxing landscape since t ...more
Jul 14, 2016 Charles rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
I liked very much but feel unequal to verbalize why I like a sport that is so brutal. More of what I liked about this book was the insights and language. For a non-fiction book, a book of essays, it's language is very rich, it's insights magical. I don't know a thing about the author, but in looking over the summaries on these pages, I can't identify any other of her books that would appeal to me. They all sound like turns on family dramas. If any reader more experienced than I can suggest an Oa ...more
Apr 13, 2014 Colin rated it it was amazing
An easy read, that is clear and concise on all of boxing's good and bad historic moments up until the mid 1980s. Oates writes quick and witty essays on Jack Johnson, Muhammad Ali, and even Mike Tyson. Although not in chronological order, the essays give information that seem more factual based and less fictional based which other writers tend to not do (especially in writing about boxing). It seems these 'fictional' tales (that borderline on gossip) of boxing are a sexier sell in the 21st centur ...more
Brad Lyerla
Jan 21, 2014 Brad Lyerla rated it liked it
ON BOXING is a collection of Oates' essays on the subject of boxing. I did not enjoy it. The title essay, ON BOXING, is the longest piece included in this collection and dominates the book. My principal criticism is that it is not purposeful. Oates offers a good deal of psychological musing on the motives of fighters and fight fans, but not to any end that I could discern.

She is a fine writer. So the prose is crisp and her grasp of the sport is credible. But there is no message. No moral. And in
Dec 03, 2010 Benjamin rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
Written with an eye towards explaining and depicting the attraction toward and zeal for boxing that both it's participants and audience have, I feel unsure whether Joyce Carol Oates is really able to understand the perspective of a non-fan sufficiently to be able to convert or convince an outsider. Her passion is compelling, but her digs at Whites and Liberals who misjudge or react negatively to the sport -- excuse me, "way of life" -- show her to be both unsympathetic and misapprehensive about ...more
"Considered in the abstract the boxing ring is an altar of sorts, one of those legendary spaces where the laws of a nation are suspended: inside the ropes, during an officially regulated three-minute round, a man may be killed at his opponent's hands but he cannot be legally murdered. Boxing inhabits a sacred space predating civilization; or, to use D. H. Lawrence's phrase, before God was love."

"The artist senses some kinship, however oblique and one-sided, with the professional boxer in this ma
Ignacio Irulegui
Mar 20, 2013 Ignacio Irulegui rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
He aquí un libro extraño. No por su contenido, sino por las condiciones de su producción: un ensayo sobre el boxeo escrito por una mujer. Si creyésemos en la quimera de los roles de género, tendríamos que asombrarnos, pero eso queda de lado cuando la prosa de Joyce Carol Oates nos cautiva en lo estilizado de su consistencia, en la poderosa lucidez de la exposición y la sensibilidad para admirar a este deporte en toda su grandiosa contradicción.
Oates no pretende definir una "filosofía del boxeo":
Dec 07, 2014 Phil rated it really liked it
Disappointingly uneven. Starts strong with two dynamite essays ("On Boxing" and "On Mike Tyson"), then withers to a lackluster series of elongated yet superficial book reviews that offer little insight not covered by the initial essays.

In that way, this collection parallels the much-bemoaned trajectory of champion boxers: it reaches the mountaintop, overstays its welcome, and finally poisons its legacy.

The above said, those first two essays really are something. Oates nailed the paradox of boxin
Aug 07, 2014 Rick rated it it was amazing
The definitive collection of essays on the sweet science. The expanded edition includes not only Oates' seminary essay itself, but others, including reflections on Jack Johnson, Mike Tyson. Muhammad Ali, and others. In her writing, Oates manages to capture the essence of whatever pugilistic subject she is considering. And she gets at all aspects of the fight game, from its appeals to it ethics, from its history to its representation on film, from fighters' lives and noble sacrifices to their rel ...more
John Tipper
Aug 10, 2014 John Tipper rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Sports enthusiasts.
Recommended to John by: Reviewers.
Shelves: favorites
A.J. Liebling's "The Sweet Science," written in the 1950s, remains the bible of this sport, but Oates' collection of essays of the 80s and 90s comes in a close second. She reveals a wide span and deep knowledge of boxing, stating every fight "is a story." Focusing on Mike Tyson a good deal, she writes about his ferocity and single-mindedness. Iron Mike, the heavyweight champ of that time, was out to destroy his opponent, to dismantle him with quickness and strength.

Oates got her fascination for
Tyler Jones
Sep 18, 2015 Tyler Jones rated it liked it
Shelves: boxing
Through much of the twentieth century, boxing was a subject of fascination among intellectuals. The primal act of men simply trying to beat each other up fit well with the times when we looked upon brutality as something more honest than what the rest of us were engaged in. It was a weird state of affairs that lasted right up until the ultimate stupid moment when Mike Tyson bit a chunk out of Evender Hollyfield's ear. I can't fault Oates that history moved on. This book ends just as Tyson is rea ...more
I am still conflicted about Oates' homage to the sweet science. I constantly found myself muttering "it's not a bad book, but..." I think in the end the decision to publish this collection of exhaustively similar essays as a single volume is the books undoing.

If you spend time sifting through the repetitive arguments of the different essays you find true gems. For example, her incorporation of Floyd Patterson's definition of courage, that "Real courage is required when you lose... Winning is ea
Miroku Nemeth
Oct 13, 2013 Miroku Nemeth rated it really liked it
There is much to be appreciated about this book for those who wish to truly contemplate boxing fully. Oates’ prose is beautiful, and she weaves a narrative which will keep the lover of literature and history stimulated as much as the lover of fighting. Sam Sheridan refers to Oates’ On Boxing many times in his A Fighter’s Heart. I am using Sheridan’s text for the second time in a writing course I am teaching at the college, and I finally broke down and bought the book this week. The first half wa ...more
Feb 28, 2010 Jake rated it really liked it
Shelves: boxing, sports
If it seems to you that my reading of this book is slightly random, you're only partially right.

I know very little about Joyce Carol Oates as an author. Truth be told, I never really bothered to learn much about her or her writing. Not for any good reason, mind you. She just struck me as a writer of the sort of fiction that is no doubt well written, but does not necessarily capture my interest. I have a peculiar bias against bestsellers which has occasionally steered me past some good writing, a
Oct 18, 2013 Jon rated it it was ok
Joyce Carol Oates watches a lot of old boxing matches on film, goes to a few bouts, sees a few movies, reads a lot of books, and then throws it all at us in a very readable, if somewhat lackluster, way. Consequently we come away with a few interesting facts: for example, Rocky Marciano was the only undefeated heavyweight champion, but this was largely because he never fought anyone very good. With a few insights: for example, being shorter than one’s opponent may not be a disadvantage. In fact, ...more
Dec 01, 2013 Charlotte rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
"spectators at public games derive much of their pleasure from reliving the communal emotions of childhood but spectators at boxing matches relive the murderous infancy of the race."-19

"The artist senses some kinship, however oblique and one sided, with the professional boxer in this matter of training. This fantastic subordination of self in terms of a wished for destiny...That which is public is but the final stage in a protracted arduous, grueling and frequently despairing period of preparati
Apr 21, 2012 Suman added it
Recommends it for: upper-middle class boxing fans
I wasn't sure what to make of this book (really a collection of essays) when I picked it up. I box - which mostly involves punching focus mitts and a heavy bag, doing lots of situps and pushups, jumping rope, and occasionally sparring other people with protective gear - while Joyce Carol Oates watches people who do that and so much more - including trying to render their opponents unconscious in front of thousands of spectators. As such, most of the book seemed very alien: the eponymous essay re ...more
Feb 19, 2016 Janaka rated it it was amazing
Oates's lyric meditations on boxing provide a beautifully thoughtful look on both the modern history and meaning of 'the sweet science of bruising.' As a 7-year amateur practitioner, I found myself getting drawn even more deeply into her poignant observations as she places the sport in a larger context of culture, history, and especially in America: race. The only weakness I see in it, is that it is essentially a collection of disparate essays written over a number of years--most (if not all) pr ...more
Sep 28, 2009 Alice rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
On Boxing is a collection of essays that were originally published as separate works. I think reading them all at once and fairly quickly does make some of Oates’ language and points seem a bit repetitive. Originally published in 1987, some of her concerns seem a bit outdated. She talks about her contemporary time being a low-point for boxing. I don’t think we are currently in a period where general public opinion on boxing is low, so some of her defense of the sport seems too adamant when read ...more
Jan 31, 2010 Robert rated it liked it
It was a good read if a bit dated. She had no way of knowing how some of the boxers would end up - it was kind of disconcerting to realize she was a bit of Tyson fangirl. Long before his conviction and incarceration, still a little odd.

I think she romanticized a lot of elements of boxing and really ignored glaring elements that I think would have fit well. For starters, the corruption in the sport was glossed over, how poorly it's officiated and the confusing set of vague rules that don't do a v
Benjamin Barry
May 24, 2014 Benjamin Barry rated it really liked it
The kind of book that opens up the rabbit hole for me. I've been watching boxing videos and interviews for days. As an amateur wrestling fan and aspiring writer, this is the type of non fiction sports writing to aim for. The metaphor is unavoidable, even though she clearly tries to. And it will resonate.
John Mccormack
Jul 17, 2014 John Mccormack rated it it was amazing
I had to put down her latest book of stories,High Crime Areas.good book,but a little dark for the moment.I had been a boxing aficionado during the period of Joyce's book,and it was nice to look back.She knows boxing,and she is a terrific writer.
David Manning
Mar 29, 2015 David Manning rated it really liked it
With some prudent editing, this could have been a 5 star book. To me Oates is as strong an essayist as she is a writer of short fiction (I've never loved her novels), and some of her most interesting and elucidating work is found here.
i enjoyed this book immensely, though broke up with JCO at this point: she gets decidedly sexist / anti-feminist / blegh in some parts here. aside from that though, wonderful, poetic statements on the game & art of boxing.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 56 57 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Sweet Science
  • Ghosts of Manila: The Fateful Blood Feud Between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier
  • The Fight
  • The Devil and Sonny Liston
  • Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran and the Last Great Era of Boxing
  • King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero
  • The Last Great Fight: The Extraordinary Tale of Two Men and How One Fight Changed Their Lives Forever
  • A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring '20s
  • A Fighter's Heart: One Man's Journey Through the World of Fighting
  • Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson
  • Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing
  • Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter's Son
  • Fat City
  • Metaphor & Memory
  • The Professional
  • Cinderella Man: James Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History
  • Atlas
  • Facing Ali: 15 Fighters / 15 Stories
Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Pseudonyms ... Rosamond Smith and Laure ...more
More about Joyce Carol Oates...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“I can entertain the proposition that life is a metaphor for boxing-for one of those bouts that go on and on, round following round, jabs, missed punches, clinches, nothing determined, again the bell and again and you and your opponent so evenly matched it’s impossible to see your opponent is you …” 13 likes
“No American sport or activity has been so consistently and so passionately under attack as boxing, for "moral" as we'll as other reasons. And no American sport evokes so ambivalent a response in its defenders: when asked the familiar question "How can you watch . . . ?" the boxing aficionado really has no answer. He can talk about boxing only with others like himself.” 2 likes
More quotes…