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There used to be a particularly dangerous and crime-ridden alley located in what is now the SoHo district of New York City; it ran between ramshackle tenements in a black neighborhood known as Darktown in the early 19th century. “Murderers’ Row” was no place for the decent or the delicate. By the 1870s, the term was used in direct reference to the second tier of the Tombs prison, which loomed a half mile from the alley. In 1918, New York was cheering six sluggers in the Yankees batting order who were bringing fans to their feet; “murderers’ row” they called them.
Boxing is to baseball what a film noir is to a musical. It’s the bad neighborhood of sports. It’s no place for the decent or the delicate. It too has a murderers’ row: eight elite and notorious fighters from the 1940s who evoke the shadowy origins of the name. One of them was mobbed-up to his eyebrows, another was an unsolved mystery until Springs Toledo exhumed and escorted him into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The oldest, an ex-con, ended his prime in a San Francisco jail after shooting a rival in an all-night restaurant; that rival stood five feet five and fought light heavyweights—while drunk. Two of them were killers.
They were the best of boxing’s underclass, barred from title shots because of the danger surrounding them and the color of their skin. No less than Sugar Ray Robinson and Henry Armstrong steered clear of them. Their remarkable stories before, during, and after their bloody ring careers are quintessential Americana—after hours.
"Springs Toledo's writing pulses with the questing passion of the P.I. and the gritty ambiance of noirish fiction . . . It would be hard to imagine a more eloquent or loving tribute to forgotten masters, whatever their craft, than Murderers' Row."
-Paul Beston, City Journal
"Murderers' Row is entertaining, educational, riveting and, for those who love boxing history, a must-buy. One gets the sense that Toledo, while definitively a modern man, would have thrived in the age of AJ Liebling."
-Lee Groves, THE RING
"Any fight fan who has enthusiastically consumed either or both of Springs's first two books, The Gods of War and In the Cheap Seats . . . is well aware of the Boston native's penchant for exhaustive research as well as for finding just the right words to evoke imagery as elegantly as did a John Keats sonnet. Springs's paeans to pugilism are what my favorite mystery writer, James Lee Burke, are to his preferred genry, which is high praise indeed to both artistes of the English language . . . Murderers' Row is destined to become a classic."
-Bernard Fernadez, The Sweet Science
Springs Toledo is rarely in press row. If he's spotted there it just means he's flat broke and had to attend the fights on someone else's dime. Don't be fooled by the suit; if he does manage to scrounge up enough cash for a ticket, you'll find him up in the cheap seats where the view isn't great and the "gallery gods" bump his drink and bust his ear drums, but he swears that where half the story is....
"Well-written, sharply observed essays . . . Toledo becomes a worthy successor to such vaunted boxing writers as A.J. Liebling and Bert Sugar."
"In the Cheap Seats was a joy."
Lee Groves, THE RING
The award-winning essays in this book have been described as "warrior poetry" and author Springs Toledo presents you with a showcase of what that means. THE GODS OF WAR transcends factoids, dry text, and threadbare yarns and conjures up legendary fighters without pulling punches. Sugar Ray Leonard's narrative about why he lost to Roberto Duran in their first fight, Toledo argues, is no less misleading than Duran's excuses for why he quit their rematch. The truth behind Leonard's first professional loss is in this book; one of the many gems in a series counting down the ten greatest fighters since 1920. The greatest of them all, Toledo writes, is neither Muhammad Ali nor the original Sugar Ray. His arguments will rattle your convictions. Boxing purists are in for a fresh look at an old love. Casual fans are in for a treat. Detractors will see for themselves what the allure is; and if their minds are open, they'll see boxing for what it has always been -a friend to the poor. Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Wright, W.C. Heinz, and of course, A.J. Liebling have made boxing writing the pound-for-pound best in sports. Springs Toledo just threw a brick through their window.
"The Gods of War is filled with beautifully-written essays about a sport that is considered anything but beautiful."
Jeremy Hobson, "Here & Now"
"Author Springs Toledo is brilliant. Change that. He's an absolute genius. He is Rembrandt with the written word."
Randy Gordon, former editor-in-chief of The Ring Magazine, TV commentator and NYSAC Commissioner; host of Sirius XM's "At the Fights."