The Police Athletic League building stands on a large, unkempt lot in Atlantic City. It is a forlorn edifice with damp walls and a cracked facade. Carl ‘The Truth’ Williams, who fought Mike Tyson in July, is a regular visitor to the boxing gym on the upper floor, where the athletic young men – mostly black and Hispanic – spar in a raised ring, thrash oblong leather bags, pump metal, skip rope, and stalk their own images in three or four large mirrors, with a fury that must be reducing the life of the building still further. To stand at the centre of the gym in mid-afternoon is like being astride a pneumatic drill. The floor and walls vibrate with a combination of pounding feet, drubbed bags and jabbering speedballs until the frenzy of noise levels out to a sustained hum.
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[*] Robson, 357 pp., £14.95, 20 July, 0 86051567 2.