Boxing has a long and adventurous history with many athletes standing out of the crowd. Some of them are only remembered as statistics in the annals of the sport, others are “lucky” enough to serve as an inspiration for video games, even if only the top UK casino games. But there are the select few that were deemed worthy by Hollywood to get their own feature-length on-screen biography – some of them even two. And these are the movies all true boxing fans should see at least once in their lifetime.
Somebody Up There Likes Me – Rocky Graziano
Considered one of the greatest knockout artists in the history of boxing, Rocky Graziano – born Thomas Rocco Barbella – had an impressive record, winning 52 of his 67 matches by KO before retiring in 1942. The movie “Somebody Up There Likes Me” starring young Paul Newman, tells the story of his life on the streets with a lot of pilfering and trouble, some jail time, and the lack of money that ultimately pushes him toward boxing that ultimately becomes his career and brings him some well-deserved fame.
The film won two Oscars, and it is notable for being Paul Newman’s first starring role and for being the first movie in which legendary actor Steve McQueen appeared.
Raging Bull – Jake LaMotta
“Raging Bull” is a movie that everyone should watch, no matter how they feel about boxing – it is one of Martin Scorsese’s masterpieces that received eight Oscar nominations. It is based on Jake LaMotta’s memoir Raging Bull: My Story – LaMotta passed away last year in Florida, at the age of 95, so a homage is appropriate. Out of his total of 106 fights, LaMotta won 83 (30 by KO). Outside the ring, he was a self-destructive, obsessive, and jealous man – his two lives are presented masterfully in his biopic.
Cinderella Man – James J. Braddock
The film, released in 2005, tells the story of the Irish-American boxer, light heavyweight contender James J. Braddock. Braddock was well-known for his iron chin and powerful right hand – unfortunately for him, he was forced to give up boxing and work on the docks and collect social assistance during the Great Depression.
Ali – Muhammad Ali
Last but not least, let’s not forget about the biography of the great athlete and tireless activist Muhammad Ali, released in 2001. The movie was directed by multiple Academy Award nominee director Michael Mann, with Will Smith in the title role. The movie focuses on the life of the athlete between 1964 and 1974, the time when he captures the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston, converts to Islam, and is banned from boxing due to his views on the Vietnam War, closing with his reclaiming of his title from George Foreman in 1974’s Rumble in the Jungle.