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Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  99 ratings  ·  15 reviews
From the author of the critically acclaimed In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr., comes another illuminating socio-historical narrative of the twentieth century, this one spun around one of the most iconic figures of the fight game, Sugar Ray Robinson.

Continuing to set himself apart as one of our canniest cultural historians, Wil Haygood grounds the spectacular
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by Knopf (first published 2009)
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Dec 09, 2009 Dan marked it as to-read
80 pages in and I'm already feeling like putting the book down. Torn--torn!--because Sugar Ray's life and times are interesting. But the author's prose is dampening my momentum He wants to be evocative, he heaps on adverbs, adjectives, additives, superlatives, bluesatives, negrotives, Americatives--yeesh! My man! As the children used to say: "CHILL!"
I had picked up Haygood's biography of Sammy Davis, but I read this first ('cuz that's how I do) and now I'm wondering if that was a wise investment
Jarrett Boswell
In this amazing piece of literature, Wil Haygood describes the life and times of the great Ray Robinson in a way that dazzles the mind. This book has with it a kind of swagger rarely found in books today. This book includes so many quotes that it seems to take your imagination and teleport it back to the times of Ray Robinson in a way that allows the events of the book to sink deeply into your mind, because instead of just reading the words that describe the events, you really feel like you're a ...more
L Fleisig
"And let thy blows, doubly redoubled, fall like amazing thunder on the casque of thy adverse pernicious enemy" King Richard II, Act I Scene iii

Two ancient bits of personal history came flooding back to me when I read Wil Haygood's "Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson".

First, when I was growing up in the late 50s and early 60s a big group of kids in my neighborhood used to gather into one tiny apartment to watch the boxing on Friday nights. In between fights, we'd strap on b
Dusky Literati
If you had actually told me I would read a book about a boxer, let alone enjoy it, I wouldn’t have believed you but Wil Haygood has written a very readable biography of professional boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. I decided to read this book as it was a finalist for the 2010 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for non-fiction. One of my personal reading challenges is to read books that have won or been short-listed for this award. While the book probably won’t satisfy the die-hard boxing fan, I found it quite ...more
Steven Z.
Wil Haygood’s THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SUGAR RAY ROBINSON is an almost literary portrait of one of the most revered boxers ring history. It is an intimate portrait of Robinson’s life and career blended with the cultural details of America during his lifetime. The reader is exposed to Robinson’s love/hate relationship with the “sweet science” as well as his desire to immerse himself in the world of jazz and the Harlem cultural scene. We are presented with the details of his major fights, though in a ...more
I enjoyed this book so much that I wrote the author - who works at the Washington Post. As a lifelong boxing fan who can recall watching boxing matches with my grandfather on the black & white TV at his home. My father and I attended many amateur and pro boxing matches for years within the Baltimore area. I know a lot about Jake LaMotta but chose to read this book to learn more about Sugar Ray Robinson - whom LaMotta battled in some well known bouts throughout the years. I also learned of th ...more
Wil Haygood has written marvelous books about notable Blacks, Adam Clayton Powell, Sammy Davis, and now Sugar Ray Robinson with "Sweet Thunder." Describing Harlem in its good days in the 1940's, and 1950's you meet boxers Joe Louis, Jake LaMotta, the poet Langston Hughes, the actress and singer, Lena Horne, trumpeter Miles Davis, and, of course, Sugar Ray Robinson as he battled Jake LaMotta and others for Welterweight and Middleweight Championships in the 1940's and 1950's just as television bec ...more
this is a great book. it really shows the life of the boxing legend ray robinson. it shows his trials and tribulations inside and outside of the ring. this book is very exciting and full of emotion. i just love how it take the reader into his life and help everyone understand his troubles.

i can relate to this book as a boxer. it gives me such inspiration to read about sugar ray robinson. after reading this book i can proudly say that i look up to sugar ray robinson. i recommend this to not only
Despite the exciting life that Sugar Ray Robinson led both inside and outside the boxing ring, the author never seems to make the story or his personality come completely alive. There were interesting but scattered references to the vibrant cultural scene that was Harlem in the 30's, 40's and 50's. I think I need to read another biography about Sugar Ray to complete the picture.
Enjoyable biography of one of the all-time greats. I particularly liked how the author attempted to place Sugar Ray in his milieu; I found the details about midcentury Harlem, Miles, Lena Horne, Langston Hughes etc. to add depth to the biography, rather than distracting. The chapter on the rivalry with Jake LaMotta was fascinating.
Robert Morrow
I'd only read one other book on boxing and I liked this one better. The story is completely linear and there are times when you wish it wasn't so, but Haygood does a good job of capturing motivation and reward in the world of boxing at the time when it was one of the top two or three sports in America.
Read this for a thoughtful look at the life of the greatest fighter of all time as well as the intersections of politics, music, art, and sport in mid 20th century America. - Randolph N. Stone
Joshunda Sanders
This is a beautiful biography, like all of Wil Haygood's works. There was far more jazz in it (and Miles Davis) than I expected. I love his optimism as a narrator, and I loved learning that he first got the idea for the bio when he was a cub reporter in Columbus, Ohio in the 1970s.
Joseph Trigoboff
I loved every page of this book. As a street fighter in East New York, Brooklyn, I worshipped Sugar Ray Robinson. There is no question in my mind, that along with his friend Joe Louis, Sugar Ray was the best boxer who ever lived. The book is beautifully written, and brings Ray to life.
Shawn Winfield Smith
The best book I've ever read. Masterfully written, this book is a work of art in creative non-fiction unlike any before it.
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