Book Review & Interview with Jonn E. JaGozza
Author and boxing aficionado Jonn E. JaGozza spent over 15 years compiling a miles-long list of phrases, words, and boxing slang found only in gyms or at ringside.
Boxing definitely has its own language. And after all was said and done, his labor of love came to fruition in his new book entitled The Boxing Dictionary, “The Language of the Ring” (The Cow Pie Press, 19.95). In this fun and fresh thick tome (which describes everything from A to Z), readers of varying degrees of boxing knowledge can flip through the pages and learn more about the beloved sweet science.
I had the chance to chat with the author, whose passion for the sport is clearly evident. JaGozza had done some boxing in New York but doesn’t classify himself as a former fighter as he never competed in the pro ranks. In his unique book, he shows respect for the fighters from the journeyman to contender to champion. He honors the pugilists, trainers and fans in this lexicon filled with his original poems and sections in the book including a Word Glossary, Phrases and Sayings, and Calls, Funny Noises and Mood of the Audience.
I, myself, believe you never stop learning in the fight game; it’s an ever-evolving sport with trends and styles always shifting. It’s also, arguably, the most colorful sport there is, and JaGozza’s book manages to capture the gritty, raw, emotional and, at times, humorous aspects of boxing. From the wide-eyed novice to the grizzled veteran, there’s a never-ending learning curve in the sweet science. As they say: “Knowledge is power.”
And while boxing is an “old boys” network and a male-dominated sport through the decades, interestingly enough it was a woman who first inspired Jonn to write this ode to boxing. Yep, blame a dame for the inspiration of his book!
After a whirlwind courtship, JaGozza began taking his new wife to the fights. She would ask a lot of questions and Jonn began jotting down his replies, which became the genesis of the book he would eventually take 15 years to pen. The working title of this publication was first called “The Wife’s Ringside Guide to the Sport of Boxing.” But after friends began asking him for copies, he realized it was an unlimited audience that could enjoy the book. Linking the words and phrases heard in and around the squared circle, he connects the language of past and present boxing terminology. Jonn wanted to pay respect to his heroes in the ring and this book (of almost 400 pages) resonates that loud and clear.
Here is my interview with “The Boxing Dictionary” author as we went “12 Rounds” in a Q&A about boxing, his book and being a lifelong fan of the sport!
Michele Chong: Hi Jonn! Congratulation on your book. What has been the reaction from the fight community?
Jonn E. JaGozza: Thanks! It’s been great; people cannot get over how much stuff is in this, there are over 2,000 entries of phrases, words–and I haven’t even scratched the surface! I took my book to several gyms and everyone really liked it–they’re shocked at how thick this book is.
MC: Tell me about the origins and thought process of The Boxing Dictionary?
JJ: I would sit ringside, in gyms or in front of my television and listen for words I’ve never heard before. The fighters, fans, trainers all add to this. It’s a language that’s ever-evolving! I am not the “originator” of these words and I try to give credit to the person who says them; there are hundreds and hundreds of phrases.
MC: What are some of your favorite phrases listed in the book?
JJ: My favorites are “I’m gonna make your man do what you want him to do!” and variations of that and also “Boxing is 90% mental and 10% physical.” I am a student of the game and I keep learning.
MC: Who are your favorite boxers of the past?
JJ: I would say George Foreman, Marvin Hagler and Jack Johnson. But Jack Johnson is my favorite; the reason is obvious. So many people wanted to kill him when he married a white woman. He went through this stress on a daily basis and yet he outperformed in the ring! I believe he would’ve beat anyone including Ali. His endurance was so unbelievable and in his era, there were no 12 rounds. They went 50-6- rounds with cotton and gauze mouthpieces!
MC: And who would you say are your favorite boxers currently fighting?
JJ: There’s only one that stands out–Floyd Mayweather.
MC: So you prefer old-school fighters?
JJ: I don’t really have a preference; I like people that are great at the game. I also like De La Hoya. My favorite fights are Jack Johnson’s, Frazier-Ali and Foreman-Lyle.
MC: You have some boxing experience yourself, right?
JJ: Yes, I boxed a little I did okay, I didn’t do well. (Laughs) One of my weaknesses was that I got mad. I’m a big believer in disciplined aggression. Once a boxer lets in the emotion, they are defeated. It’s about discipline. If you fight on emotion, you’re gonna lose!
MC: In writing your book, what was the most challenging part of its creation?
JJ: Writing the poems! I wanted to give the rawness and intensity in a short, abbreviated version of the composition. Each poem was originally pages and pages long and I had to condense them. I wanted to put the feeling in and that was the hardest part. My true heart and soul are in those poems.
MC: And what was the best part about writing The Boxing Dictionary?
JJ: The best thing about writing my book is that I was able to give my absolute respect to the fighters themselves. I think that every fighter that steps into the ring is great. Even the referees give respect by wearing bow ties in the ring. It’s all about respect.
MC: Your love and passion for boxing really shows. What’s next for you? Will you be writing another boxing book?
JJ: Yes! I’ve been writing down hundreds of more phrases, words. So in three to four years, I will have a second edition of The Boxing Dictionary! I’m 63 years old, I can work till I’m 80. (Laughs)
MC: (Laughs) One more question. Critics say boxing is a dying sport…But you believe it’s here to stay?
JJ: Oh yea, whenever there is a movie about boxing, it goes all the way to the top. From the “Rocky” movies to “The Great White Hope” to “Million Dollar Baby.” People say we should “outlaw” the sport yet why do people keep watching? And people usually like the underdog–they almost always root for the underdog!
MC: Jonn, congrats on the success of your book and thanks again for your time!
JJ: Thank you!
If you love boxing as much as I do, be sure to check out JaGozza’s book–the ultimate companion to learning the language of the sweet science. Whether you are brand new to boxing or a hardened vet, the essence of boxing comes to life through the printed page.
Boxing–in all of its beautiful violence–is not for the faint of heart. It’s a rough and rugged world at ringside. Oldtimers lament that MMA has taken over combat sports. Hard core boxing fans lose faith when bad judging, corrupt politics and the business side of boxing taint their viewing pleasure. And the warriors themselves become disenchanted when shady promoters take advantage of them.
The glitz and the glamour, the seediness and shadiness–all part of the boxing biz. All part of the game.
Perhaps we’re in the minority of those who that truly love it and all of its components–the good, the bad and the ugly.
Count Jonn E. JaGozza in as one who loves it more than most. In The Boxing Dictionary, he conveys his longtime loyalty, complete respect, and endless fascination with “The Language of the Ring.”
To Order Book: www.boxingdictionary.com
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