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Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran and the Last Great Era of Boxing

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  487 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
By the late 1970s, boxing had lapsed into a moribund state and interest in it was on the wane. In 1980, however, the sport was resuscitated by a riveting series of bouts involving an improbably dissimilar quartet: Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran. The 'Four Kings of the Ring' would fight one another nine times throughout the decad ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published July 3rd 2008 by Mainstream Publishing (first published January 1st 2008)
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Jun 21, 2014 rated it liked it
I'd been looking for a good book about boxing for awhile now, and the consensus seemed to be that this was one of the best out there. If this is.... well, I won't be coming back to boxing books any time soon. There was nothing wrong with this book. Great factual information, Kimball had access to tell some great stories that I'm sure were not known before it was published, and it is comprehensive. However... oftentimes it felt more like a factual recitation of what happened, without really delvi ...more
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
The author of this book reported on and was at every fight between the four kings. The details leading up to their fights are terrific and the fight descriptions themselves are great. I took the opportunity to read about each fight in detail, then stop and watch each fight to get my own sense of it before going back to the book. Thank you YouTube! A couple fights I had seen in full before and most I had seen highlights of over the years, but they were great to see again. It was a fantastic way t ...more
Gisela Hausmann
Jan 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: boxing, biography
Pete Hamill, American journalist and novelist, writes in his Foreword to George Kimball's book "This book is about the last Golden Age of boxing. That is, it is about a time when the matches themselves transcended the squalor of the business side of the sport, and focused only on the men who fought."

This lucky reviewer was privileged to see the end of this era, to watch the last two of the nine super fights these four boxers fought with each other. Thus I was delighted to find this beautiful boo
Robert S
Jun 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, sports
HL Mencken once wrote that he considered news reporting above all else, to be the life of kings. However, there was a time in the world where boxing held the crown. Boxing as a sport has seen better days in terms of popularity and quality of fights. Much like print journalism, boxing has been fighting for survival against newer and more sleek offerings that ultimately it may not be able to compete against.

There was a time when an upcoming boxing fight would not just warrant discussion or orderin
Tony McMahon
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Having written the biography of boxer Errol Christie - who is mentioned in this book - I had to read this hugely well-informed odyssey through the glory years of the sport. The story focuses on four of the best fighters and the interplay between their careers. It's beautifully written, observant and evokes the era perfectly. Recommend!
Oct 24, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
books on sport ought to be as well written as those on history. they seldom, however, are. hagler, hearns, leonard & duran deserved better than this.
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
At its beautiful best, boxing can be a noble battle of the mind, a struggle for dominance using skill and wit, and a gargantuan test of human fitness, heart and endurance. At its worst, it's full of braggarts, money spinners, bullies and hate. In the post Ali late 70s, boxing was tending towards ugliness. During the 80s, these four riveting fighters (Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns), brought back some of the vanishing beauty. And drama, pathos, poetry, and roman ...more
Rob Anderson
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
As an unrepentant fan of boxing, this book was great. I was still in my teens when these guys were fighting, and for me, this was the golden era. All these fights are available on YouTube, so I watched them all again is I read the book. All of these guys were amazing. I feel for Duran, because he was already a bit past his prime, but still showed up to fight against all these guys. Fun stuff, and George Kimball provides the classic beat writer repartee that suits the subject matter perfectly.
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fine dive into the last golden era of boxing, Kimball is fair and even-handed, discussing the rise and fall of four very different men, four rivals, and their various entourages.
Simon Garnett
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Knock-out stuff!
Christopher William
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've read a few reviews of Four Kings on here. The two major criticisms seem to be focused on the author being biased towards Sugar Ray Leonard, and the writing itself being of too 'newspaper-reportery' a style. These criticisms hold no water.

Firstly, the Sugar Ray bias: Sugar Ray Leonard featured in six of the super fights, a trilogy against Duran, two against Hearns, and one against Hagler. The other three, excluding their clashes with Sugar Ray, only fought each king once. So out of the nine
Feb 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Good factual account of one of the great eras of boxing. Unfortunately it does not really delve into some more depth with some of the players. He also betrays a favouritism towards Sugar Ray and lets him off the hook a bit in how he avoided Hagler for so long, and some of the more unsavoury parts of his life - that would really let us judge a bit better the characters. It nearly is a case of the Good, the bad and the ugly in the book (except there is 4 of them), Ray - Good, Bad - Hagler, Ugly - ...more
Nov 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports
This has to go up there as one of the best boxing books I have read. The era these 4 kings dominated was one of halcyon and some of the most mouthwatering fights a fight fan could have wished for. The book talks about the fights between Leonard, Duran, Hagler and Hearns (my personal ranking in that order also). They fought each other 9 times and the fights are still discussed today. None more so than the infamous No Mas fight between Duran and Leonard. the book also talks about other things like ...more
Mark Soone
This was both good and bad for me, hence the 3 star rating. Since this book however is written with a IMHO major biased favorable Sugar Ray spin, fans of SRL may enjoy this more than some others.

I didn't enjoy the historical accuracy of this, more because of the continous one sided SRL slant. It was fun reliving the excitment of these matches that i remember from my younger days. Much like the American sports media who held Sugar Ray in such high esteem that this book captures much of that. Dura
F.G. Cottam
Oct 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Hearns is deluded enough to think he can still fight. And Duran has suffered a serious accident. But these four great fighters are still in possession of their wits and their wealth - which as any student of boxing knows is all too rare a fate for a champion. This book is a vivid reminder of how spoilt we were for authentic boxing greatness back in the 1980s. None of these four avoided one another (quite the opposite) and the consequence was bouts breathtaking for their brutality, skill and cour ...more
Apr 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Four Kings chronicles the decade of title bouts and battles between four fantastic boxers: Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas "The Hit Man" Hearns, and Roberto "Manos de Piedra" Duran, and is a thrilling portrait of these athletes and the decade that they shaped through their mastery of the sport. Kimball evokes the era of the 80's when most of these matches took place, and does an excellent job of giving each of the fights their due context and blow by blow accounting. Highly re ...more
Apr 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
As it chronicled the era of boxing that first captured my cautious glance, my excitement was especially high as I gorged on the opening pages. Taken as a primary document Four Kings is a romantic initiation into the machinations behind the fights I was already so familiar with. Kimball is friendly and engaging throughout, and has a knack for assuming the knowledge of his reader, which means nothing is prolonged or too tersely treated. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay Four Kings is that it i ...more
Billy Ferguson
Nov 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: boxing, non-fiction
Not only was this a fascinating tale of all nine fights involving the quartet of Leonard, Hagler, Hearns and Duran, but it also provided insightful knowledge to what each fighter was like as a person - something that I didn't expect to read about, so I was more than pleasantly surprised.

I didn't grow up in this era of boxing, but having read this book I feel as if I know everything I need to know. I imagine that even for those who did grow up in this era, this book would be well worth reading t
Dec 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports, boxing
Great book on the great class of welterweights in the 80s...Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard. Fans of these boxers will love the bios of the fighters. But what makes this book memorable are the accounts of the nine fights that matched two of these four warriors. Doesn't matter which one you liked best, as all of them are covered here. As a lover of boxing books this one was one of my fav.orites.
Del Johnstone
Mar 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Hugely enjoyable. I was just too young for a lot of these fights but I think I'll be going back and having a look at Hagler v Hearns, Leonard v Hearns, and the Duran v Leonard 'no mas' fight. Leonard comes across as a bit of a balloon mind you. Next up, I've got Ricky Burns' autobiography, 'I Did It My Way (Tho I Did)'.
Feb 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
A solid recap of the intertwined fights of Duran, Leonard, Hearns and Hagler.

Great boxing books delve deeper than the levy of blows landed and taken- this one doesn't.

It does provide a handy timeline of the era, and confirms my opinion that Manny Steward never met a defeat he couldn't blame on his fighter not following his instructions.
Douglas Graney
This was one of the best eras in boxing and while I enjoyed Four Kings, George Kimball's writing does not match the skill of his subjects. He's a newspaper reporter and that's how this book comes across. It's a workmanlike effort but does not reach the heights other writers could have reached. However for anyone that remembers all those fights Id recommend this.
Jan 03, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I really wanted to read a non-fiction saga of real boxing history; but this one just didn't suit what I was looking for. It was too contemporary; too concrete. I think a lot of people would like it; I think a lot of boxing fans would like it. I feel its both an important book and a well-written book. I was just seeking something a little different.
Feb 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The late George Kimball brought back a lot of pleasant memories with the book Four Kings. This was indeed the last great era of boxing and now that, with Thomas Hearns's induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame this summer, all four are now immortalized among the legends. This was a fabulous book.
Sep 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Fantastic, a must read for any fight fan, if that's blurby enough. I'd have liked to have read a bit more about the up and comers, like Iran Barkley, something that put late losses among the four kings in a bit more perspective, but otherwise a flawless account.
Tony Kulla
Aug 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Okay, if you know who Leonard, Hagler, Hearns and Duran are then you must read this book. Period.

If you don't know who they are, do yourself a favor and search on YouTube for "Hagler vs. Hearns" and you'll know why I'm so excited about this book.
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Great book for lovers of the Sweet Science. Filled with behind the scenes tidbits from some of the biggest bouts ever to take place. I highly recommend this to anyone who is a fan of any of the four boxers! Enjoy fight fans!!!
Donny Nelson
Jan 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
I've always been very interested in this time in boxing history. Kimball does a great job of weaving the stories of the four fighters together while also keeping it easy to follow chronologically.
Jeffrey McKinley
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I have always been a fan of Hagler and Duran. This was a golden moment in boxing history and the author does an awesome job (read 5/27/09).
Aug 01, 2012 rated it liked it
it's a book, about boxers, more than boxing, but i had hoped there would be something to it that would add a story, rather than tell me about each boxer
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The 1986 recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism, George Kimball spent a quarter-century as a sports columnist for the Boston Herald before retiring in 2005. A veteran of nearly title bouts, Kimball has covered boxing all over the world since the eras of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, and was the only journalist to cover every fight of Marvelous Marvin Hagler's midd ...more
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