By DIG Sports Staff
Earlier this summer the DIG sports staff took a look back at our favorite sports movies of all time. With the release of the new boxing film Southpaw earlier this summer, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, naturally we thought it was time to compile a list of some of our favorite boxing movies of all time. Take a break from punching meat carcasses and running stairs and go enjoy one of these timeless boxing classics this weekend.
Rocky – Andrew Alexander, DIG Sports Editor
The quintessential boxing movie still resonates with movie fans today. Rocky is more than a boxing movie; it’s an inspirational story of an underdog fighting against all odds to go the distance with the World Heavyweight Champion.
As an uneducated, working class man from Philadelphia Rocky Balboa should not have stood a chance in the ring versus Apollo Creed, but the southpaw gets the chance of a lifetime to face the champ.
What follows is a testament to the will of a man who refusals to lose and takes whatever punches life, or Creed, can throw his way.
Rocky ultimately is a triumph of the human spirit. Against all odds, Balboa is able to go the distance in the ring. All he wants is to prove himself to the world, but more importantly to himself.
With a star-making performance by Sylvester Stallone, Rocky has become a beloved classic that is not only one of the best boxing movies of all time, but one of the best films of all time.
Forget the sequels; Rocky is the film that started an underdog revolution. Balboa punched his way through several slabs of hanging meat and into the hearts of America. He ran up steps, did one-armed pushups and made people believe they can accomplish anything.
And if Balboa’s training montage set to the iconic motivation anthem “Gonna Fly Now” does not fire you up, check your pulse.
The Fighter – Casey Gisclair
When I first started to cover professional boxing in 2008, a veteran reporter ringside told me advice that I’ll remember my whole life.
He said, “Kid, boxing is the best sport to cover, because everyone has a story.”
When I asked him to elaborate, he did in a way that makes almost too much sense.
“If not for a story, why in the hell would a grown man be standing in a ring getting the life beat out of him for a living?” he replied.
Enter Micky Ward.
An Irish bad boy from Lowell, Massachusetts, Ward’s career was loaded with ups and downs, thanks to bad training, loyalty to drug-abusing family members and promoters who’d put him in the ring with anyone in the name of the almighty dollar.
Boxing is a dirty business and The Fighter does an outstanding job telling Ward’s story in its realest form. It chronicles the defeats, the struggles, the family drama and everything that Ward had to go through as he scratched and clawed his way to the top.
It also details his triumph and ascent to becoming a world champion.
After a four-bout losing streak in the prime of his career, Ward bounced back and got his shot. On April 13, 1996, the underdog faced Louis Veader for the WBU Intercontinental Light Welterweight Title.
Veader was pummeling Ward, and the referee almost stopped the fight.
But thanks to some “head, body, head, body” advice from his brother and trainer Dicky Eklund, Ware rallied back and scored one of the most thrilling comeback victories in boxing.
The Fighter is based on a true story, and it tells the story in a way few movies do.
It’s a classic, real-life depiction of the sport and all of the challenges its athletes face on the journey to the top.
Million Dollar Baby – Felix Cunningham
“If there’s magic in boxing, it’s the magic of fighting battles beyond endurance, beyond cracked ribs, ruptured kidneys and detached retinas. It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you.”
In 2004, Million Dollar Baby tugged at the heartstrings as well as inspired one to put on boxing gloves, tackle a dream and make it a reality.
Played by Hilary Swank, Maggie Fitzgerald was a middle aged woman working at a diner and cheap tips were not enough to make a living so she did the impossible and picked up the golden gloves. This movie focuses on the importance of such a contact sport: with risk comes reward.
Maggie did not only risk her body as a scrappy in-ring contender but she also risked her funds to her “money-hungry” family that didn’t believe in her in the first place.
The reward landed Maggie with an undefeated streak that found her in the champion circle. With a title on the line, anything is possible and with that in mind, Maggie took the helm and held out until her body couldn’t give up anymore. The champion was not going to relinquish that title and, using dirty-tactics put Maggie in a vegetative state.
With tears in her eyes, Maggie wants to return to the brass ring but in her state her only desire is relief and struggles with her family wanting to take her hard-earned money.
In the end, denying her family, she left the world with the crowd chanting her name.
Rocky III – Tommy Romanach
With the culmination of the first two Rocky films, the franchise needed to go beyond the Apollo-Balboa rivalry. I don’t think anyone thought they could trump both characters with the legendary Clubber Lang.
What’s the best Lang moment? It’s tough to say. There are the stares he gives Mick as he dominates opponents in the ring. There’s the beat down he gives Rocky in their first, very quick fight. Or how about Lang hitting on Adrian, right in front of Rocky, at Rocky’s own trophy ceremony?
Rocky III is the first time we see Balboa truly vulnerable, getting physically overpowered by a man far more determined than Rocky’s present state. Rocky has been weakened by fame, with sponsors and commercials keeping his work ethic complacent.
The movie also features one of the greatest training montages in any movie, as Apollo goes from foe to friend to prepare Rocky for a Lang rematch. There are few moments in film more essentially 80s than Apollo pushing Rocky to the limit with Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” blaring in the background.
It’s a film not only about Rocky defeating the pompous Lang, but defeating his own self-doubt. The film is done so well, Rocky literally has to end the Cold War in the next film for the franchise.