Richard Hoffer’s “Bouts of Mania” is a lovely echo from a bygone era, when boxing and the written word co-habited in sensual ardor. It tells of the rivalry of three heavyweight champions, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman, who fought five bouts from 1971 to 1975. Their legend comes alive, in tone and pitch, light and dark and gray, under Hoffer’s deft touch.
To readers who followed Hoffer’s long and distinguished career at Sports Illustrated, and to those (such as myself) who remember his earlier work for the Los Angeles Times, this is no surprise. Hoffer plies his craft in the tradition of the sportswriters he admired — Red Smith, Dave Anderson, Mark Kram, Robert Lipsyte, Jim Murray, Larry Merchant, Jerry Izenberg, Hugh McIllvaney, Dave Kindred — as well as the literary lions — Norman Mailer, William Saroyan, George Plimpton, Budd Schulberg — who dropped in on the sport.