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The Fight

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  1,811 ratings  ·  122 reviews
In 1974 in Kinshasa, Zaïre, two African American boxers were paid five million dollars apiece to fight each other. One was Muhammad Ali, the aging but irrepressible “professor of boxing.” The other was George Foreman, who was as taciturn as Ali was voluble. Observing them was Norman Mailer, a commentator of unparalleled energy, acumen, and audacity. Whether he is analyzing ...more
Paperback, 234 pages
Published September 30th 1997 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1971)
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Moneyball by Michael LewisFriday Night Lights by H.G. BissingerSeabiscuit by Laura HillenbrandThe Blind Side by Michael LewisFever Pitch by Nick Hornby
Top reads for sports fans
43rd out of 537 books — 526 voters
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Best Books on Boxing and Boxers
1st out of 100 books — 48 voters

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Community Reviews

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Jul 07, 2009 Mike rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: pugilists, sissies
Two dangerous men, larger than life in the way great boxers often are, meet in Africa to perform boxing. Norman Mailer does a great job describing the fight, the fighters, sports journalism, the journalists, and the defiant corruption of Mobutu's nation. Just as a boxer learns the magic geometry of intent vs. pain, searching within it for their moments of opportunity, the writer learns how words contain a magic by which they may dissect time. In real time combat is measured by the length of your ...more
Chapters 13-15, about the actual fight, are perhaps the best description of a live sporting event I've ever read, and worth five stars alone. The rest is somewhat discursive, but there is something inherently enjoyable about the very thought of Norman Mailer undertaking an early-morning jog with Muhammad Ali after eating a large meal, getting drunk and gambling all night long with George Plimpton. In fact, I think I've had dreams like this.
Ben Loory
exhilarating and damn near perfect. less about the fight (though very much about the fight) than about mailer's own crazy-making demons. builds to an absolutely thrilling climax and ends quietly and beautifully with an earned sense of peace. the first mailer book i've ever read where he really just nails an ending. great book.
First Confession: I have inflated my rating of this book. It's probably four stars, but since it gave me exactly what I wanted when I wanted it I have conferred an additional star in the hazy gaga I currently exhibit over this work.

Second Confession: Previous to reading this book, I had never read Norman Mailer before. Therefore I must forgo any analysis of this work in relation to Mailer's canon.

Getting down to brass tacks -- THE FIGHT is an extraordinary exercise in sports writing. The combin
Jason Smith
Fantastic study of one of the most momentous upsets in sports history. Mailer tackles his subjects (although the focus is largely on Ali, Mailer's favorite to win) with a similar egocentric cloak that he wore with aplomb when writing Armies of the Night, a similarly wonderful analysis of the march on the Pentagon.

I can say confidently that one need not be versed in the pugilistic arts to enjoy this book. I know next to nothing about boxing, and on the rare occasion when I have viewed a bout, usu
Nicholas Pell
Amazing journalism from one of the foremost writers of the 20th Century. I'd give up writing if Mailer weren't 20 years older than me when he wrote this. It's literally so tightly written that if you fancy yourself a "writer" you're going to hang your head in shame. Say what you will about the man, Norman Mailer can write his ass off.

The book tells in intimate detail, the story of the "Rumble in the Jungle," the Frasier-Ali fight that took place in Zaire under the height of Mobutuism. Mailer de
A few things to know about Norman Mailer: 1. He's full of himself and he's full of baloney. Mailer has never been devoid of ego. He plays the game of writer as prize fighter, and considers every book a match for the crown. He's in the ring with the heavyweights and he wants to out write them all. This gives rise to a great amount of personal huffery that manifests in totally unsupportable opinions (e.g., good fucking makes good babies, ((from a different book)) and a strange belief in his abilit ...more
Richard Thomas
Such a great book. While Mailer at times is a bit verbose and self-involved, overall it's a fascinating, compelling, emotional story. Loved it. More non-fiction and I hardly read non-fiction. And HST makes a tiny cameo.
Mailer was one of the greatest American writers of the Twentieth century—and also one of the most outspoken!—and this, his journalistic account of the boxing match in Zaire (now the Congo) for the Heavyweight Championship of the World between an aging Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) and the fearsome George Foreman, a fight dubbed, “The Rumble in the Jungle”, is his best book as far as I am concerned. Mailer is bewitched by Ali and his descriptive writing is as beguiling as Ali’s boxing skills. He f ...more
Errol Orhan
Short review:
The book is as much on the Foreman-Ali fight as it is on race relations, Norman Mailer himself and the press. If you like Muhammad Ali, are interested in his relation with both the press and his entourage, and are keen to read a high paced eye-witness report to Mobutu's Kinshasa, this is the book for you.

The longer, and obviously vainer review.
Although I have never been extremely interested in boxing, I have always been intrigued by the Foreman versus Ali Fight for one sole reason:
Bode Wilson
Deeply mixed about this book. Mailer's aggressive, deeply masculine prose is perfectly suited to describing physical activity, so the chapters dealing with the actual boxing match are very nearly perfect: exciting, suspenseful, and just breathless enough. Among the very best sports writing that I've read.

On the other hand, Mailer's aggressive, deeply masculine prose causes problems when describing just about anything else. The build-up to and aftermath of the fight are narcissistic, self-serving
Anything else I write here will only recapitulate my praise for Mailer’s handling of the eponymous subject. Doubtless, too, those who’ve read Mailer—or who’ve merely formed unshakable judgments on the writing based on the public man of dubious character (yes, that’s settled)—already have their minds made up, rendering attempts at persuasion futile.

So, another direction: Read the following linked article, if you can stomach it, a psycho-vivisection of Richard Nixon of equal velocity and incisiven
3 1/2 stars. The thing about Norman Mailer, in my opinion, is that he sometimes thinks that he is to writing as what Muhammad Ali is to boxing and that he can do no wrong. By being the greatest writer of all time he makes reading a simple thing like a book about a very famous boxing match a more difficult read than it needs to be.

At times this book gets confusing, like around chapter 2 or 3 where Norman starts to question his love of Black people and that maybe he might be a racist after all. W
This was definitely something. This was my first time reading Mailer, and I'd never really read something written with that kind of self-important style before, and I didn't even know what to expect going in. But I enjoyed the book quite a bit for what it was and what it wasn't.

The description of the fight was tremendous and Mailer's take on both fighters was so distinct and fantastic that you really felt as though you were there. There's something to be said for being able to persuade the reade
Liked the book very much; although, I found Mailer's writing to be quite clunky and awkward at times. Also, I have always heard that Mailer was one of those great solipsist writers, narcissitic and--to a degree--misogynistic, very muh like Updike and Roth can sometimes be, but, towards the end of my read, I watched an interview in which Mailer carried himself like a true ass, and it almost turned me off from the rest of the book. It's unfortunate, but his behavior in the interview--an interview ...more
My favorite sports book ever. Follows Ali from training (mentally and physically) and into the ring for his greatest triumph. Some of said this book is more about Mailer than "The Fight" and maybe that's at times true, but I'm a sucker for when a writer who is interesting enough to be inserted into his story, well, inserts himself into the story. Mailer wasn't some bum, he went jogging with Ali during his training, was (along with the great George Plimpton) in Ali's dressing room before the figh ...more
Steve King
I read "The Fight" some years ago and really enjoyed it for it combined a couple of elements for me. First, I am a big Norman Mailer fan which doesn't mean I have enjoyed everything he has written--am of course very aware of his big ego. Second, I am a major sports fan and have tuned in on the classic boxing matches of my era. Mailer knows his sports, particularly boxing I think, and is great at describing the sporting event in the context of everything else that is occurring at the time.

Ben Dutton
Today it seems unlikely, but in 1974 two sporting greats travelled from the United States to Africa, to battle it out in Kinshasa (then in Zaire, but today in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.) Challenger Muhammad Ali was to fight George Foreman, an unbeaten fighter, and apparently unbeatable. Before it even happened, the Rumble in the Jungle was hyped as the biggest fight of the decade. It might now be the greatest sporting event of the twentieth century.

The fighters travelled to Zaire at t
Extraordinary eye witness account of the preamble to "The Rumble in the Jungle". Norman, as he refers to himself, has access to the preparations of Ali and Foreman's respective camps. In 1974 Ali was the most famous athlete in the world. I remember the BBC boxing commenter, Harry (oh my God, he's won the title back at 32) Carpentator telling us that if you were ever castaway on a remote island hacking your way through cannibal infested jungle to reach help and came across a previously undiscover ...more
A very entertaining account of the Ali-Foreman bout in Zaire and the days preceeding the bout. At times Mailer can be pompous and frustrating (though thats part of reading a book by Norman Mailer). But he seems to have reigned himself in with this 200 page book. I havent read a Mailer novel in ages, despite the fact that he is one of my favorite writers.

Mailer is pretty digressive - the book is not about the ALI-FOREMAN fight alone. It is about Zaire, its about Mailer himself, African philosophy
Harlan Wolff
Norman Mailer's masterpiece. Muhammad Ali's most entertaining fight is brought to life by Mailer's pen. This is the Rumble in the Jungle from a journalist's perspective. I'm not a boxing aficionado but Ali went beyond sport as an icon of my childhood. I don't see anybody like Muhammad Ali amongst the celebrities of today so pick up this book and get reminded of what a man with a strong character and a larger than life personality can accomplish. It is also beautifully written.
Houlahan houlahan
Phenomenal part journalism, part fable as Mailer gives us his version of the rumble in the jungle. His portrayal of Ali verges on the fauning, but it still has real insight.
Mailer, a significant novelist of the late 20th Century, is really at his best in books like this and Fire on the Moon or Executioners Song. He has a knack of taking a linguistic scalpel to our world and exposing things that we either did not see or would rather not look at.
Dec 10, 2007 David rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: the stout of heart!
If you can stomach Mailer's discursions into his indigestion and his unabashed portrayal of the Ali/Foreman fight as a Clash of the Titans, an exilharating read awaits. The character portrayals are vivid, the surrounding socio-politcal issues fascinating, and the fight itself one of the most exciting things I've ever read. Bravo to the late great man of letters.

Owen Hughes
Yes, Norman Mailer's unique style is at times infuriating, but this book is so worth sticking with. As a few people have mentioned, the description of the actual fight and build up is absolutely gripping, only a few people in the world had the access that Mailer did.

If you have any interest in this subject, this is a must read, only wish it was longer!
S.W. Gordon
I'll have to think about this for awhile but I have to agree with another reviewer: "It just didn't feel like a novel to me. Rather, it felt like an elongated sports report merged with the self-indulgent diary of a confused and extremely arrogant man feigning humility."

This book was more of a personal essay made awkward by the author's use of third person narration. The diction and syntax is beyond reproach but stylistically Mailer failed. Like many fight fans, I prefer to watch a fight unfold l
Jan 11, 2008 Joshua rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: boxing fans
Shelves: africa, journalism, sports
Mailer's descriptions of the boxers (Ali and Foreman) and the fight are amazing. The first time he inserts himself into the story -- to describe why it is that "Blacks" like him so much -- made me cringe. But later in the book his depiction of himself illustrates well the pathetic, lovable, suspicious ways of sports fans.
Richard Mulligan
Fabulous. Mailer brings a world of his own to a world that's already pretty exciting - Zaire, Ali, Foreman, politics, death, magic, bad weather!! Just an amazing project. I love this book!
Chris Gould
As a combat sport writer myself (boxing and sumo) I found this a great book - Mailer's eye for detail and ability to interweave emotions and sport is first-class.
Ron Irwin
Mailer thought he "failed" with this book about Ali v Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle. He did not. The best sports book I have ever read.
Mark Noble
I have been reading some of Mailer's older work lately. I have been a bit surprised at how fresh and relevant his writing appears almost a half century later. The Fight is one of those books. This is probably the best book ever written about boxing. It covers the 1974 heavy weight fight in Kinshasa between the aging Mohammed Ali and George Foreman. Like most of Mailer's writing, Norman Mailer is also a key character. I have always been fascinated by Ali's personality and Mailer is able to put th ...more
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Norman Kingsley Mailer was an American novelist, journalist, essayist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, and film director.

Along with Truman Capote, Joan Didion, and Tom Wolfe, Mailer is considered an innovator of creative nonfiction, a genre sometimes called New Journalism, but which covers the essay to the nonfiction novel. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize twice and the National Book Award once.
More about Norman Mailer...
The Naked and the Dead The Executioner's Song An American Dream The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History The Castle in the Forest

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“It is not uncommon for fighters’ camps to be gloomy. In heavy training, fighters live in dimensions of boredom others do not begin to contemplate. Fighters are supposed to. The boredom creates an impatience with one’s life, and a violence to improve it. Boredom creates a detestation for losing.” 2 likes
“How his hatred seethed in search of a justifiable excuse.” 1 likes
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