Convicted Artist Magazine

Feb 21st
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boxing-knockoutsWhen Boxing returns to Florentine Gardens in Hollywood, CA for the second time this year, on September 20, it is continuing a great tradition.  A tradition of which many people, even hardcore fight fans, do not know the history.  We all know if the legendary Rocky series, as well as star-studded films like Cinderella Man and The Fighter.  However, did you know that boxing is by far the most covered sport in the movies?  Did you know the tradition goes back as far as movies have existed?

One of the very first 5-minute motion picture released to the public was a boxing demonstration being given my Jim Corbett, the first gloved heavyweight champion of the world.  That started a love affair between film and prizefighting that has lasted nearly 120 years.  In fact, a few years later, Los Angeles was where the heavyweight champion called home. 

Hundreds of actors every day work in Burbank, California movie and television studios, never knowing that in that very same town, "Great White Hope" Jim Jeffries raised alf-alfa in his retirement years.  It was from that retirement that he was drawn out, to unsuccessfully challenge the great Jack Johnson.  Jeffries lived the majority of his life in Southern California, and is buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery.  Of course, the movies were just a coincidence then, as Hollywood had not yet become ground zero for that activity. 

Fast Forward to the 1930's and clown prince of the heavyweight division Max Baer.  Today he is more known as the guy who killed two men in the ring, told jokes during fights, and lost to the Cinderella Man.  But in Hollywood, he was known as the star of "The Prizefighter and the Lady", the filming of which is how Baer spent his championship reign, rather than training.  Heck, Baer might even be more well known among entertainment buffs, as being the father of the actor who portrayed "Jethro Bodine" on 'The Beverly Hillbillies'.

Paul Newman's breakout role came when he was cast as Rocky Graziano in "Somebody Up There Likes Me".  It was a role that was originally intended for James Dean, prior to his death.  Anthony Quinn's Mountain Rivera in "Requiem for a Heavyweight" is considered by many to be the greatest performance ever in a boxing movie.  Although, some would say Christian Bale came very close recently, in "The Fighter".  Hall-of-fame fighters Mickey Walker and Henry Armstrong also fought for the majority of their boxing years out of Los Angeles, and enjoyed many celebrity fans.  Ditto lesser known fighters that packed houses in Southern California through the 50's and 60's, like Art Aragon, the original "Golden Boy". 

Many Hollywood actors/producers have also gotten into the act on the business side.  Sylvester Stallone had a piece of an unbeaten heavyweight in the 1980s', Lee Canalito.  Vince Vaughn is currently a fight manager.  Sam Simon, producer of such hits as Taxi, Drew Carey, and the Simpsons, has managed a few fighters, including former heavyweight champ Lamon Brewster. 

While the Avalon Ballroom and the Henry Fonda Theater played occasional host in recent times, most of Hollywood spent the 80's and 90's trucking south to Inglewood, to attend the weekly Monday night shows at The Great Western Forum.  The days of weekly boxing shows may be permanently behind us, but the days of the marriage between Hollywood and Boxing has only gotten stronger.  It continues in great tradition, in one of the most historic venues in the area.  The series at Florentine Gardens is not about star power.  It is designed to develop up and coming fighters.  Of course, given their location and proximity, the bright lights are shining on them already.

Chris Strait


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