Sam Sheridan had the early adulthood of someone who is building a life in preparation for a memoir. After graduating from high school, he worked as a merchant marine. He left the merchant marines for Harvard and after graduating from Harvard, crewed on an antique yacht as it crossed the globe. Getting off in Australia, he got deeply into Muay Thai (Thai kick boxing) and that is where this memoir/meditation on fighting begins.
Sheridan takes us from a training camp in Thailand, where he is one of a few crazy foreigners, through the mixed martial arts gyms of the Midwest, then to Brazil for Brazilian Jui Jitsu, on to Oakland for traditional boxing, then a detour into the world of dog fighting until we end up back where we started, in Thailand, where the world of Muay Thai has changed, and foreigners are everywhere.
This is a remarkably smart book. We see Sheridan’s understanding of the nature of fighting change as he ages and becomes more aware of not only the glamour, but the price paid for physical combat. The early sections on Thailand and the MMA gyms in the Midwest have the sort of gallant devil may care attitude that only the young can afford. But latter scenes, including a haunting interview with a fighter who killed someone in the ring and has never gotten over it show you the dark side to all that violence.
I found the chapter on dog fighting out of place and a little too detached in a professional journalism way. Dog fighting is disgusting. Sheridan should have said so in a more straightforward way. That said, the rest of the book is really top notch with honest portrayals of Sheridan and the fighters he meets. If you’re interested in the world of fighting, and what it means to be a fighter, either professionally or in the amateur arena, I highly recommend checking this one out.
Recommended for the enthusiast.