THE RING MAGAZINE REVIEW In: the Ring Magazine, July 2009, page 10, Boxing Bookshelf By Pete Ehrmann
Winning a championship sometimes turns a good fighter into a great one, but it didn't work that way with Mike McTigue. After the Irishman not very surprisingly won the light heavyweight title from Battling Siki in Dublin on St. Patricks Day, 1923, McTigue became one of the most unpopular champions of his time (the worst lemon who every drew on a boxing glove in public, wrote Paul Gallico). He was a talented, but safety-first boxer as unadventurous outside the ring as in it (I'd rather face Dempsey than talk into that thing, he blurted when asked to speak into a radio microphone), and when he dropped the belt by decision to Paul Berlenbach a couple years later, Bash Boulevard resounded with loud hosannas. Then a funny thing happened. McTigue got kayoed by Jack Delaney and discovered there were worst things than a hard punch in the chops. His subsequent free-swinging comeback didn't result in another title, but it did win for McTigue the cheers that never came during his dreary reign. (Gallico again: One of the miracles of the prize ring.) All this is told with great verve in A Bloody Canvas: The Mike McTigue Story (Mercier Press, 353 pages, paperback, 16.99), Andrew Gallimore's second first-rate biography of a long-ago boxing champion. The first one was about early 1914-17 lightweight king Freddie Welsh, and this one is equally absorbing and fun to read. The McTigue-Siki fight is one of the most colorful and controversial in light heavyweight annals, and Gallimore's account is well researched and gripping. Old Mike's subsequent defense against Young Stribling in Columbus, Georgia, was another eye-popper not because of what happened in the ring itself, but rather the bizarre, fascinating circumstances surrounding the event, which are also entertainingly rendered. Some might carp that Gallimore's use of long blocs of writing by Gallico, Westbrook Pegler, and other 1920s sportswriters is cheating, but they actually lend nice verisimilitude and flavor to the narrative. Gallimore's own prose is stylish and lyrical enough, though occasionally he overreaches (The silver stitch in the cut he got in his fight with Siki shone in the glare of the lights, he wries about George Carpentier, taking a bow in the ring before McTigue-Siki. Carpentier had lost to Siki about seven month earlier. His stitches hadn't come out yet?). Fifty years from now, wrote Gallico in 1927 about McTigue's amazing turnabout, the mild Irishman who turned knockout king will be one of the great stories of the ring. In Gallimore's skilled hands, it still is.
Review by Irish Central.com A Bloody Canvas by Andrew Gallimore Review by CAHIR O'DOHERTY IrishCentral.com Staff Writer Published Tuesday, March 10, 2009,
Boxer Frances Michael McTigue hailed from Kilnamona, Co. Clare and in 1923, at the height of the Irish Civil War, a bitterly divided people managed to set their differences aside to watch him go 20 rounds before the guns started firing and the bombs started exploding again. It took a particular kind of talent to call a halt to that tragic slaughter, and McTigue was made of the right stuff. Bloody Canvas tells his story, how an underdog became world champion in one of the most bizarre world title fights ever witnessed. McTigue lived a hard but fascinating life, and his story takes us from rural Ireland to Jazz Age New York to the privations of the Great Depression. Gallimore has restored a champion to his pedestal and rescued his reputation from obscurity. Dufour Editions, $26.95.