Fight Talk With the Celebrated Boxing Writer and Author Don Stradley


By Rick Assad

Don Stradley's path to becoming a writer wasn't typical, but it didn't stop him from penning several well-received books, mostly on boxing, and authoring lively and deeply-researched magazine pieces.

"My education and background can be described as patchy," says Stradley. "I didn't have the traditional college background. I was a bit of a black sheep. I was writing for small Boston-area newspapers when I was 18 or 19, mostly human interest stories and stuff for the arts section. I didn't get serious about journalism until many years later."

It can be argued Stradley's book, "The War: Hagler-Hearns And Three Rounds For The Ages," which was turned out by Hamilcar Publishers and is a look at the Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns tussle at Caesars Palace is his best offering to date.

The book was praised by the Times of London and The Progressive magazine selected it as one of the 10 best reads of 2021.


Though the April 15, 1985 bout took slightly longer than eight minutes, it became an instant classic, but writing about that clash wasn't Stradley's idea.

"My publisher mentioned it to me as a possible subject,'' he said. "I hesitated, because it was such a well-known fight. I wasn't sure if I could add anything to it. But after thinking it over, I decided to go for it."

After accepting the idea of writing the book, Stradley wanted to come to the subject with fresh eyes.

"I wanted to do the book my way. I think I'm different from most boxing writers, and my approach would be different,'' he offered. "I didn't want to portray them as superhero figures. To me, they were just two young guys fighting for a piece of the spotlight. Writing the story turned out to be a great experience, and I'm very proud of the book."

Covering the sweet science wasn't a goal for Stradley, who has won four first-place awards [two for feature, one each for column and live event] from the Boxing Writers Association of America. It more or less came out of the blue.

"It was a total fluke. I watched a lot of boxing when I was a kid, and I knew a little bit about it,'' he said. "During the early days of the Internet, I wrote some boxing stories for websites. Some people from The Ring read my stories, and I started corresponding with them."

Like so many situations, they start small but then things begin to snowball.

"One thing led to another, and I started writing for The Ring, which has been great. But I've always felt it was a bit of a fluke. Had I been writing about baseball or rare coins, and someone else contacted me, maybe I'd be writing about baseball and rare coins now,'' said Stradley, who started writing for the magazine in 2003. "If The Ring hadn't contacted me, would I have simply wandered off in another direction? I don't know. I've always thought I should be writing for Smithsonian, American History or National Geographic, because I am more of a history buff."

There were several nuggets mined by Stradley, who has written five books for Boston-based Hamilcar Publications, after researching the fight.

"I liked learning that Hagler altered his entire style for that fight. He didn't ordinarily fight that way. He was usually a stand-up, straight forward fighter, a boxer,'' he said. "For this fight he was crouching down, like Joe Frazier, and really crowding Hearns. That was not his usual method."

"Few fighters will so drastically change their style. They usually stick to what they do best. But Hagler took a gamble and literally transformed into a different type of fighter. Now, of course, everyone thinks of Hagler as that brawler who knocked out Hearns, but in his other 60 or so fights, he was more of a stand-up fighter, always very measured and in control,'' he said. "The other thing that really stuck out for me was how the major players in boxing didn't think Hagler-Hearns would sell. That's why I call it Bob Arum's masterpiece, because he shoved it down our throats. By the time it happened, all of America was curious about it."

During Stradley's slightly more than two decades covering the manly sport, he's noticed a difference between active and retired boxers.

"To be frank, I don't really enjoy talking to boxers. I've had a few good interviews. Antonio Tarver, Micky Ward, Ricky Hatton, and Juan Diaz come to mind, and I'm sure there are others but fighters tend to be self-absorbed,'' he noted. "They're usually living in a bubble, where people are always catering to them. And they usually say the same things, over and over. It's as if they're programmed to say certain things."

Stradley said there are too many people running interference for boxers which makes it even more challenging.

"It's also difficult because the interviews are always being rushed. There's always a public relations guy trying to push you along and get it over with. That was my experience, anyway,'' he said. "However, once a fighter is retired and away from the business, he'll be more forthcoming. By then, he doesn't have to protect his image, or put up a front. A retired fighter is more honest."

Stradley said there are others in the fight game more interesting to speak with.

"Actually, my best conversations have been with trainers. They tend to be more down-to-earth,'' he said. "I remember having great chats with Angelo Dundee, Goody Petronelli, Emanuel Steward, Joe Goossen. I could spend hours with those guys."

Stradley has also written about Carlos Monzon and Edwin Valero in books titled "A Fistful Of Murder: The Fights And Crimes Of Carlos Monzon," and "Berserk: The Shocking Life And Death of Edwin Valero."

Those two ringmasters were enormously talented and skilled, but with over-sized problems outside the ring.

"Monzon and Valero are extreme examples. Most boxers don't murder women. There are a lot of boxers with troubled personal lives. A big part of it is how they are brought up. What was the environment like? Some people can't escape their past,'' he said. "They have violent childhoods. Sometimes you hear that these guys are sent to a boxing gym so they can stay out of trouble. But maybe these guys would be better off getting some therapy. Maybe they don't need more violence, they need something else. It's a complicated issue, and I can't give a detailed answer here. In the end, I'm not sure if boxing is any worse than any other profession."

How does Stradley determine which book topic to pursue?

"The main thing is whether or not I want to spend a year or so of my life with the subject,'' he said. "Whether it is a boxing book or crime book, I have to be intrigued. And I am pickier now than when I started."

Stradley has several projects in the works and is excited to see how they play out.

"I can't give too many details, but I have two projects out there. One is a true crime book that is in the hands of an agent,'' he said. "She is supposedly shopping it around to publishers. The other is a boxing book. A publisher contacted me with a proposal. It'll be a big coffee table book. This group puts out beautiful books, so I'm very excited about it. It is scheduled for 2025."

Fans of Stradley's work could be in for another sweet treat if either or both are published. Keep your fingers crossed.