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The Harder They Fall by Budd Schulberg (1947)

Schulberg’s novel, called “the novel about boxing” by Arthur Miller and “the best book on fighting that I have read” by Gene Tunney, is a roman à clef about heavyweight Primo Carnera. It was made into a well-known movie, starring Humphrey Bogart, in 1956. The book, which presents a dark vision of the ruthlessness, cynicism and dishonesty of the fight game and the publicity machine that enables it, includes a paragraph about the Carpentier-Dempsey fight. The scene takes place in a “dark, narrow saloon and beanery” under a boxing gym, where old fight films are shown “on a streaky movie screen:”

On the screen it was Dempsey and Carpentier now, the first million-dollar gate, curtain raiser on the Golden Age of boxing and gold-plated bunk and ballyhoo. A sharpshooter from Reno moved into New York with the big idea that a fight wasn’t just a contest of skill and brawn; it was a dramatic spectacle, and he proceeded to stage it accordingly. So it was Carpentier, the war hero versus Dempsey, the slacker; the fearless French light-heavyweight against the 200-pound bully; the clean-cut, smooth-shaven, gentlemanly veteran, representing patriotism, sportsmanship and boxing skill, and the glowering slugger with a three-day’s beard who had fought his way up from the hobo jungles. There were the 80,000 high-pressured fans screaming their lungs out for Carpentier because Tex Rickard and his press agents, taking advantage of their simple-minded morality, has been careful to present them a hero to cheer and a villain on whom to vent their volatile anger.