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The Fight

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  2,507 Ratings  ·  177 Reviews
In 1975, at the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship in Kinshasa, Zaire, Muhammad Ali met George Foreman in the ring. Foreman's genius employed silence, serenity and cunning. He had never been defeated. His hands were his instrument, and 'he kept them in his pockets the way a hunter lays his rifle back into its velvet case'. Together the two men made boxing history in an ...more
Unknown Binding, 239 pages
Published January 1st 1975 by Little Brown and Company (first published January 1st 1971)
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Jul 07, 2009 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Ben Loory
May 10, 2013 Ben Loory rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 22, 2014 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
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
Dec 29, 2008 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 30, 2011 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 06, 2016 Emma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Time magazine reported in an article on why Mailer matters that he spent years in Brooklyn "waving his matador's cape at Hemingway". He was dressed in a matador's shirt when he stabbed his wife multiple times with a pen knife at a glittering party in NYC. Mailer refers to Ali as a matador to Foreman's raging bull in just one of a number of references designed to parallel their characters (the funniest being his criticism of Ali's egotism when he refers to himself in the third person, as Norman d ...more
Jason Smith
Jul 03, 2008 Jason Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports
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
Jan 18, 2010 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: combat-sports
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
Houlahan houlahan
Jul 02, 2011 Houlahan houlahan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Richard Thomas
Feb 23, 2011 Richard Thomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 28, 2013 J.C. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, sports
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
Errol Orhan
May 09, 2012 Errol Orhan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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:
Hannah Louey
Although he has appeared in an episode of Gilmore Girls, I’ve never actually read anything by Norman Mailer – a relative superstar in the 20th century literary world.

Released in 1975, The Fight follows the legendary fight between Muhammed Ali and George Foreman – two names that are synonymous with boxing, even today. Set in the country of Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo), Norman Mailer turns the upcoming boxing match into a mystical dr
Ben Dutton
Apr 03, 2014 Ben Dutton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 19, 2010 Asif rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, sports
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
Feb 01, 2010 Mikhail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books
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
Jun 28, 2008 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 30, 2016 Luke rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mailer is racist, narcissistic, and misogynistic in his telling of the story of the fight between Muhammed Ali and George Foreman in 1974 in Kinshasa. I think this generally goes without saying with Mailer but seeing as this is the first of his works that I have read I thought it necessary to point this out. He tells the story of the fight and fighters from a safe but privileged distance, expressing both condescension and admiration for the fighters.

In spite of these factors I found the tale of
Serjeant Wildgoose
Some things just stick in your mind and being woken by my father in the early hours of an Anatolian morning to watch the Rumble in the Jungle is one of my earliest and deeply felt remembrances; to share time with a father is about as good as it gets for a boy on the cusp of his teens.

Mailer's superb telling of the fight adds weight and horror to the punches that I still remember; reason to take away the crushing disappointment felt by a boy who wanted to see the butterfly in flight, but instead
Harlan Wolff
Mar 01, 2013 Harlan Wolff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 23, 2016 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just listened to a copy of this and it was very enlightening. I remember sitting with my dad to watch this fight. My dad loved boxing since he was a boxer when he was younger. This was so interesting because it gave so much background to before, during and after the fight. The only thing that was unsettling was listening to the words of Norman Mailer (the author) as he talked about himself in the third person. Weird! This won a Pulitzer Prize and the writing is definitely of that caliber.
Owen Hughes
Sep 14, 2014 Owen Hughes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Jan 04, 2008 Joshua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: boxing fans
Shelves: journalism, sports, africa
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.
Dec 10, 2007 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Aug 14, 2007 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographical
An unexpected pleasure.
Luckily I bought a publishers boxed set that included "The Fight". I might never have picked this book off the shelf otherwise. I didn't know I was going to like it so much.
There is plenty here for a non boxing audience as we head for the "Rumble in the Jungle".
Chris Gould
Apr 13, 2012 Chris Gould rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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!
ο μέιλερ σε ρίχνει στα σχοινιά. γράφει για την πυγμαχία όπως ο χέμινγουεϊ για το ψάρεμα. αν δεν σ'αρέσει η πυγμαχία, θα την λατρέψεις όπως και το ψάρεμα.
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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.
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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.” 4 likes
“Then comes the left jab again. A converted southpaw? It has something of the shift of locus which comes from making love to a brunette when she is wearing a blond wig.” 3 likes
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