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Sports Movie Madness: Boxing Movies – Round 1

***DEADLINE EXTENDED until 5 pm on Sunday!

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 winners.

1 Rocky
2 Million Dollar Baby
3 Raging Bull
4 The Fighter
5 The Hurricane
6 Rocky II
7 Ali
8 Cinderella Man

rockypic1 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.

cindpicTaking a step back to 1930s New York, Ron Howard’s gritty period piece finds a real-life boxer in the form of James J. Braddock at the center of Cinderella Man. Howard has dappled in so many genres it is quite astounding the continued success that has befallen the man, though this was far from the Academy favourite it was intended to be. This look back at the earlier years of the sport benefits from a multitude of fine performances (of which Paul Giamatti received a nod for Best Supporting Actor) and well executed matches. Conventional, as many entries in this sub-genre are, but rousing enough to leave your viewing with a smile.


 millionpic2 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.


 ragingpic3 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.

rockyiipicThe 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.


 fighterpic4 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.

hurricanepicLike 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, Washington took home an Oscar nod because of it. Unlike many films on this list however, this entry essentially puts the sport on the proverbial backburner as it tells the tale not of his success in the ring but his wrongful imprisonment for a triple murder. Criticisms have been raised since the films release regarding apparent falsities presented about Carter’s case but in such a tale it ultimately becomes a moot point. If fans of the boxing genre can embrace the common plot threads that exist through most of these offerings, then certainly they can overlook the Hollywood treatment for a film that tries something a little different.





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