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The Long Shot by Katie Kitamura

March 28, 2011

This is the story of a rematch. As the story opens, we find Cal, a mixed martial artist, on his way to Tijuana with his trainer, Riley. Two days from now, Cal will be one half of the main event in a fight that pits him against the only man who has ever beaten him professionally.

That is the arc of this novel—it covers the arrival, a day of training, weigh-ins, prep, and the fight. It reads more like a short story, and in the end you might find yourself saying “That’s it?” But much of what happens (the more interesting part, I would say), is in the mind of the fighter and the trainer. Kitamura interviewed many fighters while researching this book, and I think she captures some of this mentality well. What I don’t think is here, though, is a real understanding of what it feels like. What it feels like to train, or to get hit, or to blow all your energy going for a move and then having your opponent impose their full bodyweight, their full will upon you. In the short Q&A at the back of the book, Kitamura says she never considered fighting. The book reads like it. It reads like a well-researched report of someone standing in the gym, but not quite in the action. It tells a story that has been told many times, but it doesn’t hold a candle to some of the better fight literature (Thom Jones, for example).

Still, as a fight fan, this was pretty good popcorn. It can be read in a couple sittings, and aside from my few issues with it, it’s entertaining.

 

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