Abbott Joseph (A.J.) Liebling, (October 18, 1904 - December 28, 1963) was born in New York, and attended Dartmouth College, until he was expelled for not attending chapel. He would later move to Columbia University, and their school of journalism, before taking his first job with the New York Times. Liebling, however, was fired from the Times; after he listed as the referee of basketball games he was covering as "Ignoto", which is Italian for unknown. Liebling moved around between various papers in the Northeast such as the New York World and Providence Herald-Journal, and lived in Paris, where he studied medieval history.
In 1935, Liebling was hired by The New Yorker magazine, where he would remain until his death in 1963. Liebling wrote essays on a variety of subjects, such as, politics, war, food, horse racing, and the media. During World War II, Liebling covered the European front of the war from various locales such as London, Paris, and Tunis. In 1951, Leibling would begin to write essays for The New Yorker, on another one of his personal intersts, boxing.
Liebling chronicled the rise of Rocky Marciano from his knockout over Joe Louis, on through Marciano's retirement, and the reigns of his succesors Floyd Patterson, Ingemar Johansson and Sonny Liston, as well as a young Cassius Clay. Liebling also wrote about boxing shows that he saw as he traveled the globe, writing about Irish boxer Billy (Spider) Kelly's unsuccesful European Featherweight title bid against Ray Famechon in Belfast.
Liebling's writing style highlighted his knowledge of the behind the scenes players in boxing, as well as his ability to provide the reader with a detailed realism of the surroundings and figures he was writing about. His boxing writings were compiled into two books; The Sweet Science and A Neutral Corner. The Sweet Science is widely considered as one of the best sports books ever written, and was recognized by Sports Illustrated in a recent article as the best sports book ever written.
Liebling was elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame as a "non-participant" in 1992. He is also an inductee into the World Boxing Hall of Fame, in the "Expanded Category" (Writers & Historians & Photo Journalists).
Other non-boxing works
- Back Where I Came From - 1938
- The Telephone Booth Indian - 1942
- The Road Back to Paris - 1944
- The Wayward Pressman - 1947
- Mink and Red Herring: The Wayward Pressman's Casebook - 1949
- Chicago: The Second City - 1952
- The Honest Rainmaker: The Life and Times of Colonel John R. Stingo - 1953
- Normandy Revisited - 1958
- The Press - 1961
- The Earl of Louisiana - 1961
- Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris - 1962
- Mollie and Other War Pieces - 1964 (posthumous)
- "A.J. Liebling's Delectable Political Jambalaya", by Jonathan Yardley, 20 January, 2004, The Washington Post
- The Church of Liebling: The uncritical worshippers of America's best press critic
- "Not quite enough A.J. Liebling" by Allen Barra, Salon.com, Sept. 23, 2004