In a meeting of literary minds, legendary Irish American writer Pete Hamill interviewed George Kimball, author of "Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran and the Last Great Era of Boxing" at the Barnes & Noble in Tribeca on Friday, January 16. The book covers the nine fights between Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns and Roberto Duran from 1980-1989. Kimball reported on all fights and had close access to all four fighters during this extraordinary period in boxing. Hamill and Kimball, who go back almost 40 years, discussed all things boxing, and the former reminisced on their postgraduate studies at the Lion's Head bar in Greenwich Village, where both put in dedicated hours of practical research during their drinking days. Kimball, who worked for the Boston Herald for 25 years until his retirement in 2005, has covered close to 400 title bouts and won the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism in 1985. He still covers fights and regularly reports on Irish boxers in the States, John Duddy, Andy Lee and James Moore among them. He writes a weekly column for The Irish Times called "America at Large," and recently released a compilation of these articles in book form called "American at Large." The 65-year-old also wrote "Chairman of the Boards" with legendary Irish miler Eamon Coughlan in 2008. While introducing Kimball, Hamill described what made him a great boxing writer. "The attempt to pin down what is marvelous about fighters is, to me, very fully realized by George," he said. In an interesting interview, the two writers talked about how a generation of boxers was lost after the end of the era of the Four Kings. "I won't accept that it has gone completely into decline but certainly we lost a generation after these guys for several reasons. The fighters who would have replaced these guys really didn't come along, one of the reasons, as I mention in this book, or Gil Clancy mentioned, is that crack (cocaine) was a big factor," explained Kimball. "The guys who would have been in the gym or would have been the next generation of boxers were either on crack or selling crack and could make more money than they could fighting." Kimball also noted how boxing flourishes in times of peace, and that it was no coincidence that the first of the nine fights between the Four Kings took place just after Vietnam and the last was just before the invasion of Panama. Olympic boycotts in 1980 and 1984, and strikes in other U.S. professional sports in the early eighties also allowed boxing to come to the forefront during the decade. Nowadays, Kimball added that boxers aligned with one network might never take on other fighters aligned to different TV networks, which has had an effect on the sport and has prevented some of the best matches from being made. In his youth Kimball was an anti-war and civil rights campaigner and unsuccessfully ran for sheriff of Douglas County in Kansas in 1970 (he won the democratic primary unopposed by posting his candidature 30 minutes before the deadline - winning he said by the "skin of his teeth," but lost in the election itself to the Republican candidate). "Four Kings" is published by McBooks Press

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