How "Little Giant" Tommy Burns Became the World Heavyweight Champion

by Rebecca Sjonger

How Tommy Burns became heavyweight champion of the world.

Noah Brusso was small in size, but feisty. After winning a bare-knuckle boxing tournament at age ten, he found his way out of poverty. Noah changed his name to Tommy Burns, a tough Irish fighting name, and boxed his way to the top. In 1906, he won both the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship and the fame he longed for. At a time when few other boxers dared to do the same, Tommy Burns was willing to defend his title against boxers of all races and nationalities, forever changing the sport. Rebecca Sjonger details both Burns' unbelievable rise and his spectacular fall.

[Fry Reading Level - 3.8

About the Author

REBECCA SJONGER is the author of twenty-five non-fiction books for children and young adults, including Life in the Far North and The Life Cycle of a Bat, as well as other "Resource Links of the Year" selections. She lives in Huntsville, Ontario.


Knockout! is the story of Canadian, Tommy Burns, who, in 1906, became the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion. Born Noah Brusso in 1881, he changed his name to Burns believing that to be an Irish fighting name. The Irish were considered to be good boxers. Therefore, having an Irish name would help a boxer's career by attracting more spectators.

The Burns story is one of guts and determination. If young readers like to learn about someone who succeeds against all odds, they will love Knockout! Burns, a genuine hero, faced numerous obstacles on his road to success, including poverty and a brutal stepfather. In addition, his small size was a major hurdle. Most of the men he fought were taller, heavier and had longer arms. Burns was fast, however, and a very good boxer, and he often gave his opponents an awful beating. His story is told in an uplifting fashion. While boxing may not be a sport to which many boys aspire, they will like Burns because of his sportsmanship, determination, and common decency. He was an outstanding athlete. In addition to boxing, he excelled at lacrosse and speed skating.

Knockout! is very realistic and a pleasure to read. It has a useful glossary of boxing terms and is illustrated throughout with functional black and white photographs, mostly of Burns at various stages of his career. An interesting feature is the use of sidebars to inform readers of certain facts the author considered important. With titles such as "Boxing Day" or "Bust and Blubberweight," they make the Tommy Burns story more meaningful.

Author, Rebecca Sjonger, has considerable experience with children's literature, having written 25 books of nonfiction for children and young adults. Her style is perfect for the recommended readership. In her hands, Burns comes to life, and readers become Burns' boosters. They almost imagine themselves in an arena watching him fight. Knockout! is ideal for recreational reading.

Highly Recommended.

Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher, lives in North Bay, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to [email protected].
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364 Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
Thomas F. Chambers, Canadian Materials - Volume XV - No. 7

"If young readers like to learn about someone who succeeds against all odds, they will love Knockout!"

Knockout! is very realistic and a pleasure to read."

"Highly recommended."

Thomas F. Chambers, Canadian Matierals - Volume XV - No. 7

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