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The Champ & The Chump: A heart-warming, hilarious true story about fighting and family

James McNicholas

3 Reviews

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The first book from award-winning comedian James McNicholas, based on his critically acclaimed Edinburgh show The Boxer

'Hard-hitting and hilarious' - James Acaster

'Funny, moving and compelling' - Mike Costello

A heart-warming, hilarious true story about fighting and family, based on the acclaimed stage show. For fans of books by Dave Gorman, James Acaster and Danny Wallace, along with boxing tales from the likes of Tyson Fury and Ricky Hatton.

Terry Downes - the charismatic cockney known as 'The Paddington Express' - was a world champion boxer, US Marine, gangsters' favourite and later a film star and businessman.

James McNicholas' PE teacher once told him he was so unfit he'd be dead by the time he was 23.

James has spent his life pursuing a career in acting and comedy. In reality, that has meant stints as a car park caretaker and river cruise salesperson. After Terry's death, James finds himself in reflective mood, comparing his story of underachievement against that of his world champ grandad. What follows is an increasingly colourful journey through post-war Paddington to the blood-soaked canvases of Baltimore and Shoreditch, via Mayfair parties with the Krays.

Along the way, James begins to dig into his own story, confronting the dysfunctional elements of his childhood, describing his often hilarious efforts to make it in the world of showbiz, and attempting to recreate Terry's trials by enlisting in a brutal military boot camp and boxing gym. When James is diagnosed with a frightening and mysterious neurological condition, the two tales of the fighter and the writer suddenly collide, and what began as a nostalgic journey takes on a far more important significance altogether.

'A wonderfully funny and heartfelt story of what family and lineage means. Even made me like boxing' - Josh Widdicombe

'An extraordinary family history, told with warmth and wit. Two remarkable underdog stories - come for the cockney scrapper who conquered the world, stay for the grandson and the fight of his life'
- Greg Jenner

'If you like comedy and boxing this is the perfect book. James McNicholas is a very funny man and a brilliant writer' - Rob Beckett

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Praise for The Champ & The Chump: A heart-warming, hilarious true story about fighting and family

  • A heavyweight hour of stand-up and storytelling ... It's heart-in-mouth stuff. I was tempted to run on stage and hold aloft McNicholas's gloved fist. His show is a knockout.. - The Guardian

  • His footwork as a storyteller is as impressive as his reach as a joke-teller - The Times

  • Compelling and poignant. - The Scotsman

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James McNicholas

JAMES MCNICHOLAS is a writer and performer based in London. As a screenwriter, he has credits with BBC, ITV & BBC Radio 4. His live comedy show 'The Boxer' was named in the 'Top 10 Comedy Shows of 2019' (The Guardian). Alongside his comedy, James is a sports journalist for The Athletic and co-host of the award-winning Arsecast Extra podcast.

TERRY DOWNES became world middleweight boxing champion in 1961. Known as 'The Paddington Express', he emigrated to Baltimore and served in the US Marines, before his boxing career brought him back to the UK. In his later years, he was an actor and successful businessman. At the time of his death in 2017, Terry was the UK's oldest living boxing world champion.

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