Convicted Artist Magazine

Apr 16th
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greatest-boxing-moviesIt seems the best boxing movies are told of interesting, talented mid-level fighters.  Jake La Motta and Micky Ward now have, in my opinion, the two best boxing movies ever made about an actual fighter (Requiem For a Heavyweight” and “Rocky” were about fictional fighters).  These are men who were known for action, brawls, and their interesting lives off-screen often.  They often attract the best actors and directors to their life stories.  However, the top-level fighters in boxing history have had no such luck in having their stories told on the big screen.  Let’s look at a few examples.

Jack Dempsey – One of the top ten heavyweights of all time (albeit a bit overrated by most).  Yet, the only attempt I can recall to even make a movie of his life was over 30 years ago.   The Treat Williams sleep-inducing CBS movie made in the late 70’s may have scared off anyone from attempting it again, but it is time.  While introspection into the life of Dempsey might have been the goal of that first movie, it ended up being an achievement that such an exciting life could be made so boring.

Muhammad Ali – In 1977 he played himself in a squeaky clean version of his own life, but that was when his career was not yet over, and the good news was new to most people.  Naturally this movie was missing the gritty aspects, like the Liston controversies.  The Will Smith version in 2001 tried to tackle these aspects, but ended up pigeonholing Ali, and making a similar mistake as was made in Dempsey.  Don’t try to get in the head of a wild fighter with long pensive shots.  Show their crazy life, add interesting dialogue, and let us figure it out.  Instead the focus was on the great performances.   Anytime you try to tell the life of Ali using only 10 years, you’re going to fail.  Sadly, this movie was such a colossal failure, that no one will likely attempt a new one for many years.

Sugar Ray Robinson – Probably the greatest fighter ever, yet has their ever been a movie?  I am seriously asking, because I cannot recall one.  I’m sure there has been an attempt, but I am not researching it, because the point I am making is that if I have to look it up, it’s quite sad.

Joe Louis – What is holding this up?  There have been made-for-TV attempts, but like Robinson, nothing mainstream we can point to.  One hopes the documentary on HBO gets some wheels turning.

Rocky Marciano – They’ve tried twice that I know of, most recently the Jon Favreau attempt.  Both failed miserably.  Mainly the problem here is the focus was not on Marciano’s life story or personality, but on an outside influence (i.e. love for Joe Louis, contentious relationship with manager).  If you do that, the side story better be even more interesting than the main one.  This angle worked with Micky Ward, because it was.

Now, let’s look at a couple of potential great stories from the mid-level talent.  Don’t want to reinvent the wheel entirely here.

Max Baer – Ok, this is just a suggestion.  He fits the Jake La Motta, Micky Ward category, and there are so many plot twists here.  The humor, the acting, the ring deaths, as well as the untimely death he suffered himself.  No shortage of actors who could play this well, either.

Vinny Pazienza – He’s been talking about it for years, and I can’t wait to see it.  Not sure who could play Paz correctly, and there are many ways that story could be ruined… but it would be a great if done properly.  Ditto Ray Mancini.

Chris Strait

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