Heavyweight Thad Spencer—he could have been the 1960 Olympic gold medalist. Instead he turned professional at 17 to be Eddie Machen’s sparring partner. Poor management, poor training habits and a love of nightlife slowed his progress until in 1964 he hooked up with Willie Ketchum, trainer and manager of fighters from boxing’s early days as a populist sport, controlled by underworld bosses. In his 30 years in the business, Willie had seen and done it all except manage and train a heavyweight of promise all the way to the Promised Land, the greatest prize in all of sports: the Heavyweight Championship of the World. In 1967, a superbly conditioned Thad Spencer was scheduled to fight heavyweight champion of the world Muhammad Ali, but Ketchum and Spencer lost their chance when Ali was stripped of the title for refusing induction into the United States Army. In the first round of the WBA elimination tournament to find a successor, Spencer pulled off a huge upset win over former WBA champion Ernie Terrell and suddenly Thad was favorite to win it all. By year’s end he was ranked number one heavyweight in the world. But fame and drugs ruined Spencer and by the end of 1968, he had completely disappeared from the ring rankings, and Willie Ketchum had left him to manage other fighters. Ketchum continued his search, but never came up with another heavyweight to equal Spencer. As a fighter, Spencer had it all. Admirers called him “another Joe Louis” for his cool, calculating demeanor in the ring and lightning fast hands. Along with Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, he should be remembered as one of the outstanding heavyweights of the 1960s and early 1970s. Instead, today, Thad Spencer is boxing’s all but forgotten fighter. The Name of the Game. This is the saddest story in all of heavyweight boxing.
Brand: Starlight Press
Used Book in Good Condition
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Initially I was drawn to this book by the mention of Willie Ketchum who I recall used to manage and train featherweight champion Davey Moore. Moore died followed injuries he sustained in a championship fight with Sugar Ramos. That was back in 1963, '64. That fight was shown live on TV. A couple of other fighters died about the same time so for a while there was a call to ban boxing if I also recall correctly. Thad Spencer I knew only a little about, mostly from his participation in the 8 man WBA tournament to replace Muhammad Ali, and also from his losing effort to Jerry Quarry, but I didn't know of the connection with Ketchum who dropped out of boxing for a while after Moore's death until I read this book.
Essentially The Name of The Game is a biography of both Ketchum and Spencer, before they came together, while they were together, and after they parted. It covers a lot of ground in its 400 or so pages, essentially 40 years of heavyweight boxing history, told from the...
Adam Heach's The Name of the Game is an excellent look at boxing in the heavyweight division, from the Clay/Liston fight, through Ali's defense of his title, to his suspension and the attempts to find a replacement champion. If you followed boxing in this period, as I did, or are curious what events transpired, Heach's use of both contender Thad Spencer and his veteran trainer Willie Ketchum's participation in that era is a refreshing change from the usual Ali-centric treatment.
Contenders and pretenders all add color to the book. Guys like Amos 'Big Train' Lincoln and Roger Rischer bob up, stay awhile, and then fade away. Included are tidbits such as the sparring knockout of Sonny Liston by a young Mac Foster:
(Mac Foster's manager, Pat DiFuria's, rendition of his charges knockout of Liston in a sparring session in Oakland in Sonny's preparation for Henry Clark.)
"they worked the first round and it was pretty even. The 2nd round, they started to work...
'The Name of the Game' is the story of Thad Spencer , who for a brief time was the No 1 contender for the heavyweight championship of the world and also of his manager Willie Ketchum, a real 'old time' almost stereotype fight figure.
Whilst there are a shelf load of books available on Muhammed Ali, Sonny Liston etc. detailed information on their opponents is often rare & sketchy.Author Adam Heach more than rectifies this with his really fascinating account of the rise & subsequent fall of Spencer, who never actually got a title shot. The reasons why & the machinations that went on in the boxing world at that time or all finely detailed in his story.
The book is not just about Spencer & Ketchum, many of Spencer's opponents, other fighters Ketchum managed & various characters who supplement their story are also included. The book is really a history of the boxing world of the period. It is a story of hopes, dreams & ultimate tragedy.
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