the pretender book graphic


Martin E Horn

5 Stars

A wonderfully-entertaining yet thought-provoking read!

Whether you are a fan of professional boxing or not, this book, theoretically concerned with primarily boxing, is lots of other things as well. Human nature.
Relationships. Good & bad. Both the good & bad in relationships. Many professional boxers of the past put in an appearance in “The Pretender”…but in a different (non-historical) context. Uniquely. “The Pretender” comes highly-recommended. As the main character carries the day. I enjoyed that read immensely.


5 Stars

Intriguing, brilliant, intricate

Was amazed at the quality of research done and the creativity of the biographical plot. Even for those who know little about boxing, the author really brings the sport to life………in a personal and existential way. Writing style is unique!

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I fight because I am not good at anything else. And to support my mother, because she supported me. When I grew to be a man it became my duty to take care of her. Plus, I enjoy boxing because the training—sparring, roadwork, hitting the heavy bag—takes my mind off of my problems. Boxing is easier than a job, I have to imagine. I do not know.

I have never had a regular job. In every play or movie I have ever seen about boxing, the hero hates it. Hates boxing. I do not like brawling, but I have never hated boxing. If I hated it, I would say so. Once I knew I could get good at it, I loved it—because on account of boxing, I am not just a bum.

Fighters are a small community. We talk. Not all fighters, but a lot of them, say they got into boxing because they wanted to do something else. They wanted to act, or be a nightclub singer, a dancer, a comedian. Lots of them say they think fighting is for the birds. They say they only fight because it is a way of getting noticed, by some impresario or talent agent. Maybe then, they can have the kind of career they want.

I have no interest in being an actor. I enjoy writing, telling stories. Especially about boxing. I want to get better at telling stories about boxing. Even as a kid, I wanted to be a famous author. Or at any rate a good author. Probably novels but maybe other stuff too. Short stories or plays, maybe. My idol when I was little was Mark Twain. Later on, in high school, I got more interested in Charles Dickens. And Samuel Butler.

People like them—novelists—have taught me that in general, people are no good. I learned the same lesson over and over when I became a fighter.

We had almost no books in the house. My father was not interested in reading. He was hardly ever at home, but I would sit with Mamãe when she read the newspaper out loud to improve her English. That is how I learned to read. I believe I could read much earlier in life than the other kids in my neighborhood.

Mamãe would read her Latin prayer book too, sometimes, so I picked up a tiny bit of Latin, and she had a Portuguese Bible, so I read that. I did not like other kids much. I have never liked people much. I have always read a lot. So far, I have not had time to do a lot of writing, though.

Let me tell you what else got me interested in writing. I had a crazy obsession that must have begun when I was four or five. When I learned to read. I imagined that anything I said or did, got written down by a gang of invisible men. Four or five of them. Invisible to anyone but me. Even I could only see them indistinctly. Little bald-headed men. Writing everything down. Reporting João Thiago Megaffin’s life, in every possible detail. I was João Thiago Megaffin, then. I am Jimmy, now, because I am a fighter. “Jimmy” sounds more like a fighter. “João” and “Thiago” do not sound American. Sometimes these little bald men would write in Portuguese or sometimes in English. If my mother came through the door of our apartment in Bayonne, if I greeted her, I would hear a voice in my head, saying, “‘Oi, Mamãe, tudo bem?’ said João Thiago as his mother stepped through the front doorway. The boy got out of his chair to help his mother carry the groceries into the kitchen.

It would drive me bats. I knew this was not normal. It made me think I was not in my right mind. I worried: did I have something seriously wrong with me?

I could not get the voice to go away. It embarrassed me, too, because of course these scribes, or whatever you want to call them, would know whatever I was thinking at the moment, and they would sometimes write down those private thoughts, which of course I never wanted anybody to know about. Because the thoughts might be rude or unkind or unworthy or babyish.But they knew my thoughts—these imaginary men, only they were real to me—and they were writing those thoughts down so they would be preserved forever. I could not bear it. From frustration, I would shout out to Mamãe, “Eles estão a escrever livros sobre mim!” They are writing books about me!

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