Boxing is a sport, but the heavyweight title is also an institution. As former Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver once wrote, “The boxing ring is the ultimate focus of masculinity in America, the two-fisted testing ground of manhood, and the heavyweight champion, as a symbol, is the real Mr. America.” He is the man who, as John L. Sullivan boasted, could walk into any saloon anywhere and announce, “I can lick any son-of-a-bitch in the world.” As an institution—as the "real Mr. America"—the heavyweight champion is loaded heavy with cultural baggage. For more than a century, he spoke eloquently, if sometimes silently, about the changing nature of masculinity, race, and even international politics in America and the world. Beston, a journalist, explores the century of American heavyweight dominance—from its rise in the era of John L. Sullivan and Jack Johnson, to its height in the period of Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis, to the slow decline during the years of Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, and Mike Tyson. His analysis lends insight not just into reigns of the champions, but what they meant to the larger social canvas of their times. A compelling study. Recommended. All readers.