On the Ropes: Boxing as a Way of Life

1996 Victor Gollancz: London

On the Ropes' is the graphic story of Beattie's own experiences in the gym and the hopes, dreams and lifestyles of the men he got to know there, from the great Prince Naseem down to the young lads wandering in off the street and the hard men with nowhere to go. He watches the boxers training and sparring, listens as they tell him of their aspirations, and observes their special camaraderie. And he follows them at play in nightclubs and bars, and in their enjoyment of brutal, illicit sports like dog-fighting and bare-knuckle fighting.  By turns funny, touching and shocking, 'On the Ropes' is a unique insider's account of survival within the boxing ring and the gritty, macho culture that surrounds it.

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Reviews

‘Beattie can write about the low life of boxing like no-one else...[He] has got the smell of the gym in his lungs.  He breathes resin, sweat and soiled towels.  He even goes three rounds himself with Mick Mills.  He writes for adults, and quite beautifully.  Not since I first went ringside with the late Ring Lardner have I so enjoyed a book on boxing.’ 
Daily Telegraph, 1996

‘A lifelong boxing fan, Beattie actually gets in the ring with the 'hard men' at Brendan Ingle's gym in Sheffield - and suffers for it.  An uncompromising look at the often unsavoury lives of the gym's regulars, as well as a portrait of a star, the gym's Prince Naseem Hamed...a classic of its kind.’ 
Publishing News, 1996

‘One of the books of the year.  Beattie's account of the fighters at Brendan Ingle's legendary Sheffield gym...is breathtakingly good...Sharp, jabbing writing; hard, compassionate journalism.’ 
Scotland on Sunday, 1996

‘An authentic, skilful account of grit and graft in a tough northern city - a tale oozing perspiration, aspiration and, all too often, desperation.’ 
Time Out, 1996

‘Extremely well-researched and moving, On the Ropes is as powerful and accurate as one of Naz's left hooks.’ 
Maxim, 1996

‘Beattie is an impressive and eloquent chronicler of the buried underside of British life...[On the Ropes is ] a unique portrait of the many people he discovers through the sport, characters and stories thrown-up by economically blighted communities.’
City Life, 1996

‘[On the Ropes is] among the year's literary heavy-weights.’ 
Arena, 1996

‘He is an unusual writer, for he seems to reach so effortlessly into the complex heart of a social circle, in this case a 'fight-mad' fraternity in Sheffield...this is a book that, even those who know little about the sport, and care even less - like me, really - would still find enthralling.’ 
Manchester Evening News, 1996

‘One of the finest sporting books of recent years.’ 
Manchester Evening News, 1998

‘This is a sports book written by sports fan but you don't have to be a sports fan yourself to enjoy it.  If you like life, you'll like this book.’ 
Newcastle Upon Tyne Journal, 1996

‘One of the two greatest books on the modern fight ever written.’ 
Loaded, 1998