Books: The Softer They Fall

FAT CITY by Leonard Gardner. 183 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $5.50.

Characters in boxing fiction rarely graduate beyond caricature. The manager is an insensitive swine; for a month's supply of subway tokens he would send a fighter up against a mountain slide. The fighter, swimming up from economic backwaters, is a supreme dolt and an exploited object of surface pity. Then comes the trainer, faithful as a mutt. Behind them all sits the omnipotent syndicate, whose generals eat pheasant under glass and meticulously avoid the sauce stains.

Such figures, no doubt once true enough, are now quite dated. Today's manager is a...

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