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Round 1 it is! *Ding Ding* Hello everyone and welcome to Player Affinity's Sports Movie Madness! Everyone likes a little competition and with the NCAA in full swing and everyone’s NHL hockey pools quickly coming to an end why should movies be excluded? Nobody likes being picked last. Over the course of the next couple weeks, you will have the chance to vote for your favorite sports movies out of a field of 64. It continues right along with our list of best boxing films.
In the Sports Movie Madness tournament, there are seven sports and one mega-category of miscellaneous sports, so eight regions total. This is the Boxing Region. Below are the eight boxing films we deemed most worthy of our tournament. There are four matchups based on these seedings and your job is to pick which movie you deem worthy of winning each matchup. Simply enter a comment by Saturday at 11:59 pm with the four movies you are picking to move on (once again, not any four movies, but one of the two movie going up against each other, so no voting for Rocky and Cinderella Man, only one or the other) and your votes count! Each region will have three rounds and then the winner of each sport region will face off against the other sports until we have a winner!
Even though boxing is far
from the most widely viewed sports, it by far has some of the very best
cinematic adaptations. From underdogs to champs to seemingly washed up
long-shots, few genres are able to boast such a steady stream of inspirational
tales as does boxing. Here are our matchups, in the red corner, blue corner and
all colors of the rainbow (and yes I’m aware that makes no sense), so pick your
2 Million Dollar Baby
3 Raging Bull
4 The Fighter
5 The Hurricane
6 Rocky II
8 Cinderella Man
1 Rocky vs. 8 Cinderella Man
Not only one of the very first mainstream boxing films, Rocky arguably still remains the most famous. Spawning a whopping five sequels not including a re-issue of Rocky III (don’t ask me why that came about) and taking in a combined $556 million dollars in North American alone, it’s difficult to find a more recognizable brand, especially considering the so-so performance of the sports genre. What makes the original the classic it is does not simply lie with the ample fine performances and heart-racing fights but the ending, and the perfect blend of bittersweet glory by which it is accompanied. The recipient of both the Best Director and coveted Best Picture trophies and with Stallone becoming only the third person in history to be nominated for both an acting and screenwriting Oscar, its rise to fame was just as inspirational at the hardened but lovable hero at the films center.
Taking a step back to
2 Million Dollar Baby vs. 7 Ali
As inspiration as the type of film demands, but as tragic as anything Clint Eastwood has directed, this star-studded entry sent the boxing movie tropes for enough of a stumble, and collected enough powerhouse performances for many to crown Million Dollar Baby as a modern masterpiece. The aforementioned twist in this particular entry is that the protagonist is not a muscle-clad working man but rather a female waitress (Hillary Swank) determined to prove she is the equal of her male counterparts. Eastwood also stars as the initially hesitant and consistently gruff trainer of Swank’s Margaret as she rising from simple beginnings to a fateful final match. Million Dollar Baby is a tad bleaker than most boxing flicks, but it stands out because of it thanks in no small part to the strong performance at its core.
At a whopping 157 minutes, the greatest weakness of Ali is its bloated length, so thank Will Smith and his Oscar-nominated performance for making Michael Mann’s sprawling epic about the legendary Muhammad Ali the lasting genre classic it is. A notorious flop at the time (long before Smith became the box office behemoth he is today) the lead actor nevertheless sheds his A-list skin and immerses himself in the role and simply owns every frame of the production. A straight-shot rise to fame fable, Ali chronicles the early days to his glory days of who is still perhaps the most famed conqueror of the sport. Essential viewing for any fan of the genre, but a difficult movie to watch in passing, this biopic does ultimately stand the test of time now one decade later.
3 Raging Bull vs. 6 Rocky II
To spell out all of the “bests” associated with Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull could easily consume the entire length of this post so let me give but a few: the best sports movie of all time, the best film by the director, the best performance by its lead Robert De Niro and perhaps most importantly for this specific category, this film is widely considered to be the best boxing film of all time. De Niro’s obscene wait gain during the course of filming to go from former champ to aging club owner has been praised and praised again but his transcendently disturbing performance throughout as former middleweight champion Jake La Motta (a man as violent outside of the ring as in) is utterly transfixing. Raging Bull could be considered the career peak of both director and thespian and is required viewing for a fan of the genre or otherwise.
The conventional tale that
the original was not, Rocky II nevertheless succeeds again
due to the lead performance by Stallone and the audience’s inherent desire to
see this underdog finally get his meal. The beginning of the more commercial
leanings of the franchise, ultimately away from Oscar gold, this sequel truly
cemented Rocky Balboa as one of the greatest film icons of all time, not to
mention propel Sly to a new stratosphere of fame. Rocky II explores some interesting facets associated with fame,
chiefly how out of his element a formerly poor, uneducated man from Philly
handles his newfound wealth. Though it may not hold a candle to its
predecessor, Rocky II captured the
inspirational spirit not re-captured
until some three decades later.
4 The Fighter vs. 5 The Hurricane
With truly an all-star cast, two of which were Oscar winners just this ceremony past, what The Fighter proves is there is always room for more entries in a cluttered genre if the product is up to snuff. Thanks to director David O. Russell’s uniquely authentic presentation of the boxing sequences and a stunning supporting performance (Christian Bale as the aforementioned recipient of Best Supporting Actor) which in more cases than one upstages lead Mark Wahlberg as Mickey “Irish” Ward, leaves this production (though by-the-numbers) an instant favourite among the masses. In many ways it is almost more of a testament for a film to overcome its genre clichés by embracing them than attempting to awkwardly sidestep the tropes. In any case, The Fighter fits right in with the fine list of films we have accumulated today.
Like Ali, The Hurricane takes its central blockbuster star, this time
Denzel Washington as Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, and completely masks
the glitter usually associated, and like Will Smith,