The biopic on the eventful life of retired boxer and current Breen’s Gym trainer Eamonn Magee shares the award with Tom Gregory’s autobiography A Boy in the Water.
It is the first time in the history of the award scheme that the ‘Bookie Prize’, which is worth £30,000, has been shared, along with a £1,000 free bet with the bookmaker and a day at the races.
The Magee biopic, mostly written in 2015 by former Irish-Boxing.com contributor Paul Gibson, was rejected by no fewer than 13 publishers.
Mercier Press eventually ensured the book would reach a wider audience and it now becomes just the fifth boxing book to win the prestigious award that virtually guarantees bestseller status.
The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee is much darker tale than the book it shared the prize with, telling the story of the top-level welterweight in the ring and outside, where shocking violence, drugs, alcohol, and gambling were an almost daily occurrence.
A Commonwealth champion who knocked down Ricky Hatton – the boxing element to the book is only just a portion of the harrowing page-turner which also deals with the tragic death of Eamonn Magee Jr.
“In the 30 years since launching the award we have occasionally considered but never ultimately awarded, a dead heat but the (six) judges found it impossible to separate these two jointly deserving but very different books,” said award co-founder Graham Sharpe, who recently retired after working for the British bookmaker for 45 years.
Sharpe described how “Paul D. Gibson’s rivetingly raw account of Eamonn’s life is packed with tragedy, triumph and wanton self-destruction. It is ultimately a powerful and cautionary tale of one man’s sporting success despite himself.”
“Astonishing and utterly gripping, we felt this was a story which attracted and repelled in equal measure but which demanded to be heard, and could not be ignored.”
A Boy in the Water tells how author Gregory became the youngest person to swim the British Channel in 1988, at the age of 11, and is billed as an uplifting read and a reminder of a different era – the minimum age to attempt the feat now being 16.
The other nominees were:
– Fear and Loathing on the Oche: A Gonzo Journey Through the World of Championship Darts by King ADZ
– Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian
– The Boy on the Shed by Paul Ferris
– Berlin 1936: Sixteen Days in August by Oliver Hilmes
– Sevens Heaven: The Beautiful Chaos of Fiji’s Olympic Dream by Ben Ryan