26.02.04 – By Matthew Hurley: With the release of “Against The Ropes”, a film loosely based on the life of boxing manager Jackie Kallen, it occurred to me just how well boxing lends itself to the big screen. With the exception of baseball no other sport can create such dramatic tension, heartbreak and excitement as boxing. Here then, in no particular order, are ten boxing or boxing related films that this corner deems required viewing.
10. Gentleman Jim – Errol Flynn has a ball as the dapper heavyweight champion Jim Corbett. Along with “The Adventures Of Robin Hood” this is Flynn at his roughish best.
9. Rocky – Despite the ridiculous fight scenes, the first Rocky film is as crowd pleasing as a sports movie can get. Forget the sequels which just got progressively worse, Rocky deserved the 1976 Academy Award for best picture and made a star out of writer Sylvester Stallone – although I’m not too sure that’s a good thing.
8. On The Waterfront – Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy. This movie belongs on the list for the famous speech he gives to his brother played by Rod Steiger alone. Arguably director Elia Kazan’s finest moment.
7. Requiem For A Heavyweight – Rod Serling’s television play brought to the big screen with a heartbreaking performance by Anthony Quinn as down and out heavyweight “Mountain” Rivera. With Mickey Rooney, Jackie Gleason, a young Cassius Clay and cameos by several old time fighters. When Quinn is forced to wear an Indian head dress as a wrestler even the most cynical man in the room will feel a tug at his heart.
6. The Champ – The original, not the Jon Voigt remake. Wallace Beery as a broken down fighter who makes a comeback to get money for his hero-worshipping son played by Jackie Cooper.
5. Somebody Up There Likes Me – Paul Newman in one of his best roles as middleweight Rocky Graziano. With the great Newman in the lead how can you go wrong?
4. The Harder They Fall – Humphrey Bogart as a cynical sportswriter who becomes a press agent and witnesses how badly fighters are treated by managers and promoters. Little has changed.
3. Fat City – Vastly underrated film staring Jeff Bridges and Stacy Keach and directed by John Huston. It’s an unflinching look at one fighter on the way up and another on the way down.
2. Ali – A very flawed film but enlivened by a surprisingly good performance by Will Smith. The reenactment of “The Rumble In The Jungle” is worth the price of admission alone.
1. Raging Bull – Martin Scorscese opened the 1980’s with this, it’s best film, and closed it in 1989 with Goodfellas, it’s closest competitor. Robert Deniro’s portrayal of Jake Lamatta is so searing in its emotion he has never topped it. Also terrific are Cathy Moriati, Joe Pesci and Nicholas Colasanto.