Sports have translated quite well onto the big screen, from basketball to football to even bobsledding. The sport of boxing is certainly no exception. For a long time, fans have been witness to some incredible movies and documentaries either based on boxing or taking place in and around boxing gyms.
Boxing, as a spectacle, has been chronicled extensively throughout the years, particularly through documentaries that are able to capture the essence of a specific point and time in the sport’s history. It is through these documentaries that we are able to relive some of the sport’s most iconic moments, and dive into some of its heroes’ most memorable careers.
Tales of epic performances in the ring, overcoming adversity and struggles beyond the ropes, and beating seemingly insurmountable odds, as well as offering an inside look at the harsh realities present in this beautiful sport, is well abundant and are truly inspirational.
If you consider yourself a boxing fan, you’ve probably already seen some of the documentaries on this list. If not, then you would be best to check them out.
It’s always interesting to be given a unique inside look at what goes on beyond the ring. Today, Evolve Daily shares give great boxing documentaries every fan needs to watch.
1) When We Were Kings
Created by legendary director Leon Gast, this documentary of the 1974 “The Rumble in the Jungle” heavyweight bout between Muhammad Ali and “Big” George Foreman is a must-watch for any boxing fan out there. It won an Academy Award in 1996 for Best Documentary Feature.
The Rumble in the Jungle is, of course, one of the most iconic bouts in the history of the sport of boxing. At the time, Foreman was not only the most feared man in the world, he was also the undefeated heavyweight champion. Ali, who was the challenger in this equation, came in the former heavyweight kingpin.
As history would have it, this performance turned out to be one of Ali’s finest. Facing off against who many people at the time regarded as an absolute monster in the ring in Foreman, Ali used his now-famous Rope-a-Dope strategy to tire Foreman out and eventually finish him in the eighth round. Ali was a 4-1 underdog coming into the fight.
The event was attended by over 60,000 people and it was dubbed as “arguably the greatest sporting event of the 20th century”.
The original “Baddest Man on the Planet”, Mike Tyson is one of the most polarizing figures in the history of boxing.
On one end, Tyson was a fearsome knockout puncher who destroyed his opponents in the ring. Guys were genuinely afraid to climb up the ring apron and stand across from him. On the other end, Tyson’s life beyond the ropes was filled with controversy and drama.
Featuring a mix of original interviews, archival footage, and old photos, Director James Toback’s 2008 masterpiece turned out to be one of the most amazing documentaries ever of Mike Tyson’s incredible life.
Tyson has had multiple documentaries of his life made throughout the years, covering everything from his harsh upbringing, to his career downfall. But this 2008 documentary features a unique look into the former heavyweight champion’s time in the ring that elicits a wide range of emotions from viewers.
It offers a deep dive into the troubled mind of a man who had everything to lose, and watched the world around him crumble before his eyes.
Manny Pacquiao’s amazing life story has been told countless times and in different formats. But Director Leon Gast makes another appearance on this list. For the 2014 documentary “Manny”, he teamed up with Director Ryan Moore to deliver an astonishing tale of a man who overcame extreme adversity to transform into a boxing legend and one of the most revered athletes of all time.
Pacquiao grew up in extreme hardship, as he was forced to sell fruit and bread on the streets as a teenager just to get by on the daily. After discovering the sport of boxing through an uncle, Pacquiao realized he had natural talent and soon relocated to the Philippines capital of Manila to hone his craft.
This documentary takes viewers on a rollercoaster journey through Pacquiao’s struggles as he basically fought himself and his family out of poverty, and eventually rose to become the sport’s only eight-division world champion, a Philippine senator, and a hero of the people.
4) China Heavyweight
Written and directed by Yung Chang, “China Heavyweight” is a compelling tale of two teenage boxers in China attempting to climb through the ranks of the amateur and international boxing scene to become professional fighters.
The film has been likened to the legendary basketball documovie “Hoop Dreams” as boxing’s equivalent, which says a lot about the care and detail that went into production.
Whereas western boxing is often marred in controversy, bright lights, glitz, and glamor, this documentary depicts what the sport is like on the other side of the world, where culture, hardship, and strife play major themes in daily life..
“China Heavyweight” is a rough and realistic representation of the socio-economic conditions in China’s countryside. It gives viewers a look inside what it’s like to be an athlete and the types of struggles two aspiring amateur boxers face on their way to realizing their dreams.
5) Buffalo Girls
Unlike the other documentaries featured, our last entry on the list isn’t based around the traditional western boxing, but instead delves into the world of its Asian cousin, Muay Thai — also known as Thai boxing.
The 2012 documentary “Buffalo Girls” offers an interesting view of the culture of Muay Thai, and how two eight-year-old girls fight to earn money to support their families.
Directed by Todd Kellstein, the film takes viewers to Thailand’s countryside, where many children are led down the path of becoming prizefighters due to financial hardship. Where fighting is a means to make a living, Buffalo Girls challenges audiences to decide internally whether young children are being exploited for money, or are simply fighting their families out of poverty.
Viewers can expect a lot of great action-packed sequences and fights, as the film captures the always raucous and scintillating atmosphere of Thai boxing.
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