This Bloody Mary Is The Last Thing I Own: 200 Pages Of Heavyweight Brilliance

Boxing can be full of Bullshit, but Jonathan Rendall's 'This Bloody Mary' is a gonzo treasure that should be on the national syllabus...
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Boxing can be full of Bullshit, but Jonathan Rendall's 'This Bloody Mary' is a gonzo treasure that should be on the national syllabus...


There is a lot of bullshit spoken about boxing. From the press tables to the bars, living rooms to gyms and beyond people queue up to have the two’pennorth about what will always be known as the hardest game. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, and whether you’re a seasoned pro, gnarled observer or a casual who gets a hard on for the big fights and nothing else, you’ve been fully aware when you’re doing it.

Jonathan Rendall doesn’t bullshit about boxing, at least not in This Bloody Mary Is The Last Thing I Own. I learnt about Rendall from Saboteur Austin Collings, Actually that’s a lie. I remembered Rendall from Austin Collings. On one of our intermittemt email conversations about boxing, Liverpool FC and American TV shows, he’d pitched a piece about ‘The Greatest Gonzo Journalist You’ve Never Heard Of.’ I verbally bit his hand off, only to realize I had heard of him when he sent through the copy. Years ago I’d watched The Gambler, his documentary about gambling and had read some of his articles in the broadsheets. I still have no idea why I didn’t read more.

Long before Rendall died earlier this year I’d promised to read everything he’d written, but it was, sadly, his death that reminded me again. You might have read about him at the time of his death, either in Austin’s fabulous pieces on here, his obituary in The Times or one of the hagiographies elsewhere that only focused on his weaknesses rather than his strengths. And what strengths they are. He really is the greatest gonzo writer you’ve never heard of.


The Gambler: The Late Jonathan Rendall at His Best

Jonathan Rendall: The Greatest Gonzo Writer You’ve Never Heard Of

Bloody Mary starts with a down at the heel Rendall in Las Vegas, driving a busted Plymouth, drinking with hookers and realizing that the dream is over. His life in boxing has finished. A love letter wrapped around a diary set aflame by his observations and some remarkable set pieces, the book lurches from Whitechapel to Havana, via all of the corners of the boxing globe, across 200 pages of heavyweight brilliance.

Essentially a three-parter focusing on his friendship with Jack Kid Berg, his management of Colin ‘Sweet C’ McMillan and his railing against the dying of his own light, Bloody Mary sucks you into the page from the word go and says more about the sport in numerous perfectly weighted paragraphs than mortal writers could do in a career. Merging with his dry observational style – gonzo doesn’t need to mean howling at the moon mental kids – it’s one of those books that you want to go on and on. 1000 pages, 2000 pages, it wouldn’t be enough.

Yet it is the taut nature of the book – not a single letter is wasted – coupled with his acceleration into full throttle in the tragic-comic third act that really sets Rendall apart from Thompson and Hemingway clones and, in his own way, apart from them too. In a macho world full of incredibly macho people, Rendall never feels the need to become overtly-macho himself. His writing, innate understanding of the fight game and experiences in its underbelly are enough. Jonathan Rendall should be a national treasure, his work deserves a wider audience. Buy it, read it, share it.

Like our review? Buy the book here.