11 Best Books on Boxing of All Time

Are you interested in learning more about how boxing greats got their start; we’ve got the best books on boxing recommendations for you to read.

If you’re a fan of the boxing greats like Muhammad Ali and Jack Dempsey, or you’re interested in getting into fighting shape to step into the ring, reading boxing books can be inspiring and can tell you what it takes to square off with an opponent.

In the list below, you’ll find a wide variety of boxing books, including autobiographies from some of the world’s best boxers, how-to guides on how to get into the ring, and everything you need to know about the sport’s greatest rivalries. So let’s dig in and check out the top boxing books.

1. Championship Fighting By Jack Dempsey

Best Books on Boxing: Championship Fighting By Jack Dempsey
Bain News Service, publisher, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“Remember this: You don’t have to be an athlete to learn how to use your fists. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re short, fat or skinny, timid or brave. Regardless of your size, shape, or courage, you already have the weapons with which to protect yourself. I repeat: All you have to do is learn to use them correctly.”

This how-to guide shares champion boxer Jack Dempsey’s top advice on how to stay strong in the ring. Both amateur and experienced boxers will love Dempsey’s timeless advice on footwork, aggressive defense, proper stance, and more. Dempsey has long stated that he has the confidence that he can teach anyone how to box, and he uses the reader’s instinct to protect themselves from instilling the principles of fighting and self-defense.

Championship Fighting: Explosive Punching and Aggressive Defense
  • Simon Schuster
  • Demspey, Jack (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 208 Pages - 01/06/2015 (Publication Date) - Simon & Schuster (Publisher)

2. The Soul of a Butterfly By Muhammad Ali

“Throughout my life, I never sought retribution against those who hurt me because I believe in forgiveness. I have practiced forgiving, just as I want to be forgiven. Only God knows what’s in a person’s heart, his true intentions. He sees and hears all things.”

Ali’s spiritual memoir shares how his values helped shape his boxing career, one punch at a time. Ali goes into how his childhood shaped his career and how battling Parkinson’s disease near the end of his life was more challenging than facing opponents like George Foreman and Joe Frazier in the ring. Ali discusses how his faith has guided his path and helped him through difficult times and how finding a meaning for his life’s purpose helped him stay steadfast to his principles, even when it meant struggles in his career. Readers will find Ali’s memoir inspirational and comforting, as it shares compassionate advice on staying true to oneself no matter what.

The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey
  • Simon Schuster
  • Ali, Muhammad (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 264 Pages - 05/18/2013 (Publication Date) - Simon & Schuster (Publisher)

3. Undisputed Truth By Mike Tyson

“Fear is the greatest obstacle to learning. But fear is your best friend. Fear is like fire. If you learn to control it, you let it work for you. If you don’t learn to control it, it’ll destroy you and everything around you.”

No matter your opinion on Mike Tyson, there’s no doubt that he’s made a lasting impact on American culture. Over three decades, Tyson went from a bullied little boy in Brooklyn to growing into one of the greatest boxers ever to step into the ring. However, Tyson’s battles with addiction, fighting outside the boxing ring, troubles with the law, money struggles, and hard partying created a turning point for the boxer in the early 2000s.

Today, Tyson is proud to live a stable life as a husband and a father, and this autobiography works to show readers that no matter how far a career may seem, it’s almost always possible to make a comeback. Tyson is straightforward and honest while still injecting his sense of humor into his career and personal life stories.

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Undisputed Truth
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Mike Tyson (Author) - Joshua Henry (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 11/12/2013 (Publication Date) - Penguin Audio (Publisher)

4. Dark Trade By Donald McRae

“Depending on your response to such extreme self-possession he was either the coolest or the haughtiest fighter in contemporary boxing. I was one of the believers in Roy Jones’s sense of cool. He did not readily try to either impress or intimidate other people. Rather, he kept a distance from the rest, as if he had nothing to prove to anyone but himself.”

McRae’s tale of his personal history with prizefighting takes the reader into the world of boxing, both in and out of the ring. Considered one of the best boxing books of all time, Dark Trade follows McRae as he travels through the U.S. and Britain to uncover the secrets of boxing. His fascination with the sport is contagious. Readers find themselves transfixed by the stories of boxing greats like Roy Jones Jr, Naseem Hamed, Oscar De La Hoya, James Toney, Mike Tyson, and Evander Holyfield. McRae works to explain exactly what it takes to put fighters in the headspace where they’re willing to put their minds and bodies at risk for the ultimate glory in their sport.

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Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing
  • Hardcover Book
  • McRae, Donald (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 552 Pages - 02/26/2019 (Publication Date) - Hamilcar Publications (Publisher)

5. Box Like the Pros By Joe Frazier

Best Books on Boxing: Box Like the Pros By Joe Frazier
John Mathew Smith & www.celebrity-photos.com from Laurel Maryland, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“I don’t mind people wanting to think Muhammad is the greatest fighter around. Everybody wants to make him great because of his mouth that he was the best. He was good, but that doesn’t make him great. I proved that.”

With William Dettloff, writer for The Ring magazine, Frazier provides readers with a step-by-step guide on utilizing his techniques to become the strongest fighter possible. This how-to guide is perfect for aspiring pros and those looking to learn more about the training techniques of their favorite athlete.

From learning how to throw the perfect left hook to a directory of top-notch boxing gyms where readers can find the perfect coach for their needs, Frazier and Dettloff provide amateurs with an unbeatable how-to explanation of getting started with boxing, from dreaming of being in the ring to throwing a KO.

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Box Like the Pros
  • William Morrow Paperbacks
  • Frazier, Joe (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 11/01/2005 (Publication Date) - William Morrow Paperbacks (Publisher)

6. Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran, and the Last Great Era of Boxing By George Kimball

“‘Why had Leonard allowed himself to be drawn into a battle for which he was ill-suited? “It’s hard to think when you’re getting your brains knocked out,’ supposed Freddie Brown. ‘This ain’t football, you know. And Duran is like Marciano. He never gives you the ball.'”

During the late 70s and early 80s, enthusiasm for boxing was at an all-time high, and fans loved watching Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns, Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran, and Marvelous Marvin Hagler duke it out in the ring. This book takes readers through the ins and outs of unforgettable championship battles, one punch at a time.

As a sports journalist, Kimball was there to cover every dramatic turn of boxing in its golden era, and fans will love learning more about the behind-the-scenes aspect of game-changing matches. This book doesn’t just come packed with history–it also comes packed with inspiration, takes of courage, and how America’s favorite boxers found the strength to push through when it mattered most.

Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran and the Last Great Era of Boxing
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Kimball, George (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 364 Pages - 09/01/2009 (Publication Date) - Mcbooks Press (Publisher)

7. Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson By Geoffrey C. Ward

“If and suppose, two small words, but nobody has ever been able to explain them. One man falls out of bed and is killed, another falls from a fifty foot scaffold and lives. One man gets shot in the leg and is killed, another gets a bullet in the brain and lives. I always take a chance on my pleasures.”

Johnson went up against all odds to become the world heavyweight champion. Growing up in the Jim Crow South, Johnson dealt with never-ending oppression, yet he persevered through prejudice and discrimination to become one of the greatest athletes of all time. As Johnson rose to the top of the boxing world, many influential people worked to tear him down. Johnson was forced to live in exile and did prison time due to people trying to destroy his life and career. In this novel, Ward explains how Johnson was fiercely anti-racist, embodying the spirit of American persistence both in and out of the ring.

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Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson
  • Ward, Geoffrey C. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 544 Pages - 01/03/2006 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

8. Atlas: From the Streets to the Ring By Teddy Atlas and Peter Alson

“Of all the people who have affected by my life and influence the choices I’ve made, none has been more important than my father.”

In this autobiography, Atlas tells the story of growing up on Staten Island, training under Cus D’Amato, being best friends with the man who would grow up to bring down John Gotti, and how he became a trainer of greats like Mike Tyson and Michael Moorer. Atlas also shares his stories of training celebrities, traveling around the world, and how being forced to overcome hardship after hardship from an early age has shaped the person he is today.

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Atlas: From the Streets to the Ring: A Son's Struggle to Become a Man
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Teddy Atlas (Author) - Teddy Atlas (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 11/04/2019 (Publication Date) - Hit Hard Media (Publisher)

9. The Sweet Science By A.J. Liebling

“Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta met six times, inconceivable for champions today. In the 1950s a quality pro thought himself underemployed if he had only eight or ten bouts a year, and the amateur scene was thriving. Nowadays pros who make a living from boxing are about as common as Yetis, and amateurs can’t get enough fights to learn the rudiments of the craft.”

Heralded by Sports Illustrated as the greatest sports book of all time, The Sweet Science tells the stories of boxing in the days of greats like Sugar Ray Robinson and Rocky Marciano. Liebling finds a human aspect to the stories of the athletes he studies, helping readers relate to their heroes. Boxing fans love poring over Liebling’s words as they help fans understand what was going on with their heroes outside of the ring and how their home and personal lives affected their boxing careers.

The Sweet Science by A.J. Liebling (2004-09-29)
  • 10/05/2022 (Publication Date) - North Point Press (Publisher)

10. Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran By Christian Guidice

“Always defiant, tonight he bleeds compromise, It is like watching a Ferrari sputtering to the closest gas station. With sixteen seconds remaining in the eighth round in the Louisiana Superdome, his mocking, face-pulling, showboating challenger, Sugar Ray Leonard, has affronted his dignity and stripped him of his macho.”

The tale of legendary boxer Roberto Duran has stunned both readers and motion picture audiences. As a result, many boxing fans believe Duran to be the best fighter of all time. Throughout his career, Duran held world titles at four weights and is the only fighter to ever fight in five different decades. Known as Manos de Piedra (Hands of Stone), Duran retired in 2002 at fifty-two years old. Throughout this biography, Guidice expertly tells the story of Duran’s life at home and in the ring. In addition, the author spent countless hours interviewing Duran and those close to him to learn more about the inspiration and lifestyle behind his unheard-of success.

11. Cinderella Man: James J. Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History By Jeremy Schaap

Web Summit: Flickr, website, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“Sometimes you have an instinct. You see something in a fighter. You don’t even know if it’s real, you’re looking for it so bad. Can’t have no hope at all.”

This 2006 bestseller tells the story of James J. Braddock, an exceptional boxer who defied the odds to become a champion. Braddock went from serving as the entertainment in between more severe boxing matches to facing off with Max Baer, heavyweight world champion–all in just one year. Braddock rose to fame during the Great Depression when all of America fought to overcome difficult circumstances and loved watching an underdog rise to the top, one punch at a time.

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Cinderella Man: James J. Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History
  • Schaap, Jeremy (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 336 Pages - 04/10/2006 (Publication Date) - Mariner Books (Publisher)

Looking for more? Check out our round-up of 25 must-read books for teenagers!

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