Southeast Missouri State University Press

Muhammad Ali and the Greatest Heavyweight Generation

Tom Cushman

Publication: October 2009
Pages: 208

Tom Cushman, one of boxing’s great sportswriters, followed the “Ali generation” of fighters from New York to Las Vegas, Nassau to Zaire, reporting for the Philadelphia Daily News from 1966–1982 and for the San Diego Tribune, 1982–1992. Muhammad Ali and the Greatest Heavyweight Generation chronicles the behind-the-scenes stories of the great athletes in boxing’s biggest-and-best age—their victories and struggles, crimes and passions, heydays and swansongs.

This collection of essays, gleaned from Cushman’s personal files as well as his recent research, brings to light the backgrounds of the fighters, in and out of the ring: Liston’s tragic death, Foreman’s rise from hell to heaven, Holmes’s crushing defeat and his great heart, Everett’s murder—and everywhere, always, the unforgettable voice and charismatic volume of the astounding Muhammad Ali.

Columnist Bill Conlin, Philadelphia Daily News, writes in the book’s Preface:

“This [is] history of the rarest sort—the view of a man who not only had lived in the time and recorded the events, but now, a quarter of a century later, who was able to interpret both the athletic imprint left by these dynamic men and the sociological impact of their triumphs and tragedies.”

Besides the compelling stories of boxing’s back stage, Muhammad Ali and the Greatest Heavyweight Generation includes previously unpublished photographs from the personal collections of Cushman and others, as well as classic images from veteran newspaper photographers.

Written by an outstanding sportswriter/columnist, this book chronicles the richest age in the 120-year history of gloved prizefighting’s heavyweight division. Baby-boomer fight fans are spoiled, conditioned as they are to believe that the division should ALWAYS be populated by the likes of Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Norton, Quarry, Bonavena, Terrell, Shavers, and the like. The truth is it has happened once and only once. Tom Cushman’s stirring remembrance of that time and those personalities is a great read for those who saw it and those who can only wish they had.   Jim Lampley, HBO Boxing Commentator

Tom Cushman, the sportswriter who knew every square of the old square jungle. During the time I was in boxing and he was writing, he tried to help make boxing better.   George Foreman, Two-time World Heavyweight Boxing Champion

Tom Cushman looked at boxing with a clear eye and listened to boxers and boxing people with a keen ear. Here, he delivers a one-two punch of the sights and sounds of boxing during the golden era of heavyweights. Oh yes, the reader also gets a whiff of the sordid side of the fight game.  Ed Schuyler, Longtime national boxing writer for the Associated Press

Tom Cushman is introspective and the best writer in any phase of sports that I have ever known. This book reflects just that. Bob Knight, Hall of Fame basketball coach

In writing about the last great era of heavyweights, Tom Cushman brought back some wonderful and some embarrassing memories I had long forgotten. Like the athletes he covered, he, too, was a heavyweight journalist. Without his help, I never would have made it.  J. Russell Peltz, boxing promoter, International Boxing Hall of Fame, class 2004

A sports editor’s primary priority is to recruit the best possible writers and editors. Occasionally, among the talents acquired to attract and to hold readers, you get a super star who is also a super person. I hit the jackpot when I lured Tom Cushman away from Colorado to Philadelphia nearly 50 years ago. This master storyteller’s “good guy” quality has enabled him to click with characters who were unapproachable to other scribes. Cushman can play hardball when called for, but always with a fair shake—one communicator that sources and readers know they can trust. This (book) is sports writing at its finest. Ben Callaway, former sports editor, Philadelphia Daily News


Tom Cushman was born in St. Louis in 1934. He received his BA from Southeast Missouri State University and graduated from University of Missouri’s School of Journalism. For over 40 years, he worked as a reporter for the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph (1959–1966), as reporter and eventually staff columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News (1966–1982), as Sports Editor and columnist for the San Diego Tribune (1982–1992), and as Sports Editor and columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune (1992–2002). He is currently a freelance writer and frequent contributor to San Diego Magazine.

In his years as a sportswriter, he has covered 10 Olympic Games, 25 World Series, 26 Super Bowls, 30 NCAA Final Fours, 21 Masters Golf Tournaments, 18 U.S. Open Golf Tournaments, and major professional boxing matches on four continents. He was the first writer outside New York City to receive the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism.

Tom and his wife Lois live in Colorado and have a son, Scott, who teaches in Chicago.

Trade paperback, $19.00
ISBN: 978-0-9822489-2-8

Cloth, $35.00
ISBN: 978-0-9822489-3-5