Boxer Hobo - Johnny T. Noctor
Johnny Noctor is Brain Damaged!

When I first started reading this book I was excited. I thought I'd found the next Bukowski! Or Harry Crews perhaps. But it wasn't to be. As I read on the book tended to become quite repetitive. Memoirs of training, drinking, homelessness, being locked up and the evolving search for his unknown assailant.

When I say brain-damaged, I'm not kidding. He received multiple brain contusions (that's bleeding on the brain) after his skull was fractured in an attack by an unknown boxer. But that doesn't stop boxing clubs in Australia using him for hundreds of rounds of sparring ..... and then not paying him. And even though he now suffers from seizures they still find fights for him ..... and then don't pay him.

And from this point of view the book is a huge success, for this abused, oppressed and totally exploited Hobo elucidates with passion precisely what is wrong with the system. He's promised a fight, so trains for weeks only to find his name is not on the bill, so the club has got free sparring out of him. He's flown in for another fight but is offered no accommodation, so sleeps under a bridge the night before he's due to box.

From a personal perspective I understand this. I had a pal who was a pro fighter. Quite often the only preparation he had for a particular fight - apart from regular training in the gym - would be when his manager would walk on the building site and say, "Put your shovel down, you're fighting tonight," and off he'd go to add another loss to his record. Crowd pleaser though, you see. At the end of every round he'd still be standing there soaking up punishment with blood and snot all over his face.

Another mate of mine turned pro. For his first fight he fought a fellow who was rated fourth in the country but two weights above him. He soon became an `opponent,' a good win for an up-and-coming boxer to have on his record.

It's a dirty business, and Johnny Hobo makes this clear. He reveals the oppression and discrimination he suffers as a drunken homeless fighting man - not just from the boxing fraternity but also the whole of the established community. You can, of course, understand that a pissed up boxer may fail to impress or influence people, so he's partly to blame for this himself. And of course there's always two sides to a story and a brain damaged mind may well have foggy memories of certain events.

Is it a good book? Not really. And as I write this I'm still unsure whether I'll give it a 3 or a 4 star. Part of me wants to offer Johnny Noctor a 4 star rating because any man who has the courage to climb into a boxing ring deserves respect and his story is one that's worth telling. But another part of me wants to be true to the reader. All in all I think it's a 3 star book