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Publisher's Summary

A heartwarming, 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.

The Champ

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

The Chump

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 spells working as a painter-decorator and river cruise salesperson. 

After Terry's death, James finds himself in reflective mood, comparing how he's doing in life to how his grandad was at that age. What follows is an increasingly colourful journey that takes James from post-war Paddington to the blood-soaked canvases of Baltimore and Whitechapel, via Mayfair parties with the Krays and betting-shop bust-ups, as he discovers the truth about his grandfather's extraordinary life. 

Along the way, he begins to dig into his own story, confronting the family addictions that blighted his early years, describing his often hilarious efforts to make it in the world of showbiz and attempts to recreate Terry's trials by enlisting in a brutal army boot camp and boxing gym. When James is diagnosed with a frightening and mysterious neurological condition, the two stories of the fighter and the writer suddenly collide, and what began as a nostalgic journey takes on a far more important significance.

©2021 James McNicholas (P)2021 Headline Publishing Group Ltd

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What listeners say about The Champ & The Chump

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Not a boxing fan

Great story, read by a real pro. I hope James gets to read other audio books on the back of this as his style, characters, accents, are all great. I’m not a boxing fan, but really enjoyed the story and how frank James is. It’s funny too!

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Life, told with respect, love and humour

Having listened to the author, via the Arsecast podcast, for around five years I had high expectations of the content of this book.

I am delighted to report that my high expectations were exceeded. James has told the story of his grandfather's life, and his own life (to date), in a way that is fascinating, respectful, purposeful, and laced with the author's trademark wit.

I consumed the whole ten hours of the audiobook over a weekend and was left touched, moved, and a little teary at times. By sharing himself so openly and honestly James has provided a story of family history that became a self-development journey with much learned and shared along the way.

Any listener will warm to this book, regardless of whether you have heard of James, his grandfather or anybody else James mentions. It's a reminder that all families have their own triumphs and tragedies; it's just that very few families have a storyteller with the skills of James McNicholas to be able to bring those up and downs to life in a way that is worth listening to/read about.

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A very personal and enjoyable book

I'm probably biased. I listen to James every week on an Arsenal podcast, Arseblog Extra. I've enjoyed the book and recommend it.

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  • Carter S.
  • 09-08-2021

The Chump is a Champ

An excellent story and performance from James McNicholas. His self-deprecating humor along with his intimate retelling of both his own and his grandfather’s life makes for a wonderful listen. As someone who has been a big fan (and staunch Twitter defender) of McNicholas from his comedy to his journalism, this one is a knockout.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-05-2022

Amazing Book

I am a big Arsecast listener and was excited to finally listen to James’s book. Wow! I knew it would be good, but even as not a huge audiobook fan, I found it an absolute treat. So incredibly witty and moving and filled with such love. It was wonderful.

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  • Ken Elliott
  • 08-01-2022

Proud

What a supremely entertaining and satisfying book this turned out to be. James is a skilled storyteller who recounts the trials and tribulations of his own life with the same aplomb and wit as the recount of his world champion boxer grandfather, all the time deftly using insight and humor to make the reader’s experience immensely pleasurable. There is one thing I would like to offer James, after reading his gratifying tale and gaining an iota of insight into his colossus of a grandfather: I have no doubt that Terry, who, as recounted by James, paid the same level of respect to every person he met regardless of so called status, would have nothing but the highest respect and admiration for his grandson, especially given the challenges he’s faced and the manner in which he’s faced them. Thank you for this enjoyable book, Mr. Arsecast Extra.

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  • lee hayden
  • 09-10-2021

Humor and the Human Spirit

This story is cleverly and lovingly told by its talented author who understands the importance of sharing neuroscience with an audience. Thankfully, he has seen his way through rough waters and is enjoying better health.

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  • cyclist
  • 18-09-2021

It’s a journey

James McNicholas is brilliant
It’s a geographic and historic journey , an invitation to personal experience without intrusion
You will feel like a champ and a chump
Thanks James

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  • Coy
  • 16-09-2021

Lovely Book

I’m told this will help James reach a wider variety of people looking to buy his book and I loved the audio version and so will you. K bye!

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  • N. Itayim
  • 16-09-2021

Fabulous book from start to finish.

What a story; what a delivery; what a book. This was such a joy to listen to. Thank you, James, for sharing this with us. Catch you on the Arsecast!

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  • S. E. Bradley
  • 09-09-2021

A great recounting of a unique and moving story

You don’t need to be a fan of boxing or comedy to enjoy this narration. An extraordinary journey through illness and (partial) recovery, interwoven with James’s personal account of the incredible life of his beloved grandfather, a world boxing champion and archetypal cockney, this story is interesting, moving and occasionally hilarious. Told in the authors dulcet tones and self-deprecatory style, it’s definitely worth a listen-you won’t regret it.

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  • Alan
  • 31-08-2021

An Honest Look into Mental Health and Legacy

Like most, I came to find this James’ work through the Arseblog podcast. I got this book in audio format because listening to James talk arsenal for an hour and a half a week wasn’t cutting it. As expected, I thoroughly enjoyed his narration.

James’ ability to be brutally honest with himself and the reader when examining his family legacy and how it relates to his mental health is a refreshing approach. I get the feeling that writing it must have been an incredibly cathartic experience and has opened me up to re-examining my past in a new light.

I decided not to mention specific details about the book because the stories are too good to give away. If you know James from other content you’ll know what I mean. Read it, nerd.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 24-08-2021

Terrific book which is both funny and interesting

Great book, wonderfully and hilariously narrated by the Chump, James McNicholas. I really loved how James was able to tell the story of his Grandfather, the world champ boxer, while drawing the parallels (and differences) with his own life.

As a listener of James's podcasts, I knew that the Audiobook was the way to go. James tells the story in a way that made me laugh out loud many times, and also gave me great insight into his "unusual" grandfather's road to success, his larger than life personality, as well as the battle that James has faced against his own challenges in life.

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  • Fletch
  • 23-10-2021

Wanted this book to go on forever!

A wonderful book that deals with grief, insecurities, living up to family expectations in an honest and Finny way.

I was overjoyed to see that the audio book was 9 hours long but I didn’t want it to end.

10/10 would recommend to anyone who ever felt the need to live up to a parent, grandparent or any family member. I think everyone would relate to this book in some way.

James is a wonderful writer and his perfectly timed jokes do lift the mood even when talking or looking at tough topics.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-10-2021

Totally engrossing!

A thoroughly enjoyable tale. The author tells the story of his own life to date, a series of mishaps and accident prone adventures, culminating in whale watching trip with life changing consequences. This is interweaved with the life of his grandfather, middleweight world champion boxer, Terry Downes, a hubristic, manly-man, at least on the outside. Funny, touching and above all, a wonderful family story. Recommend.

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  • VG of London
  • 18-09-2021

Brilliant and heartwarming

Loved this book. Very well organised and written. And it was even better listening rather than reading as it was straight from the horse’s mouth. It was joyous and I only wish James to keep as balanced as possible for the rest of his life

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  • Robert Critchlow
  • 16-09-2021

Great Book!

Wow, this book was really good, as someone not into boxing I was initially cautious about the book, but that wasn’t an issue at all - learned a lot and got to hear a great story.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 16-09-2021

Personal, touching and funny

James McNicholas opens up about his deep emotional and traumatic experiences with a comforting wit. While also introducing us to his great grandfather and his extraordinary life story. The whole thing just works due to the author’s deft penmanship and storytelling

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  • Rohan Stephenson
  • 01-09-2021

Insightful and guaranteed laughs

Great account of the story behind Terry Downes and his grandson James McNicholas. It’s two autobiographies merged into one. Well written and thoroughly enjoyable to listen to!

The book had me in stitches at times and loved the way James incorporated his comedy into the book. Excellent!!

All the accents are brilliant and well done on the SAffa accent. Makes me think of being back home in Johannesburg.

Looking forward to the next book James has in store!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 27-08-2021

Truly one of my most enjoyable reads/listens

Absolutely loved this journey of vulnerability, wit and humour. Having been a long term listener of Arsecast extra I had no idea what a well rounded and talented individual he is outside of his articulately presented football views.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 19-08-2021

Great

Great book and narration, the accent for Jamie Carragher tops of a great heartfelt story

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  • Anonymous User
  • 19-08-2021

The Champ!

A great read! some interesting stories told in a funny and heartfelt way. well worth giving a go.

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  • Andrew Donaldson
  • 18-08-2021

Excellent debut

The author provides a deeply personal account of his life and the comparisons with his world champion grandfather. He blends the depth of feelings with his humour well. I realise it may be for comic effect, but a stand up comedian, an actor, and now an author, is no chump!

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