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Synopsis

Beetle-browed, nearly bald, a head that rode his collarbones like a bowling ball returning on rails, his waist size more than half his five-foot-eight height, Two Ton Tony Galento appeared nearly square, his legs two broomsticks jammed into a vertical hay bale. By all measures he stood no chance when he stepped into the ring against the Brown Bomber, Joe Louis, the finest heavyweight of his generation, in Yankee Stadium on a June night in 1939. “I’ll moida da bum,” Galento predicted, and though Louis was no bum, Tony, the Falstaff of boxing, lifted him from the canvas with a single left hook and entered the record books as one of the few men to put the great Louis down. A palooka, a thug, a vibrant appetite of a man, he scrapped his way out of the streets and into the brightest light in American life. For two splendid seconds he stood on the canvas at Yankee Stadium, the great Joe Louis stretched out before him, champ of the world, the toughest man alive, the mythical hero of the waterfront, of Orange, New Jersey, of an American nation little more than a year away from war. Joe Monninger’s spellbinding portrait of a man, a moment, and an era reminds us that sometimes it is through effort, and not the end result, that people most enduringly define themselves.

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