This is an article from the Jan. 31, 2005 issue
Prof. Langtry's Boxing School
Mother of all fight films involves a Tyson-like prof who stomps his opponent, twirls him overhead and hurls him to the canvas. He leaves the patsy's ears unchewed--so much for realism.
The Little Tramp picks up a lucky horseshoe as he passes a training camp advertising for a sparring partner. After jamming it into his glove, he brains the Champ.
Joe Cobb, Norman (Chubby) Chaney
In this early Our Gang talkie, reluctant pugs Joe and Chubby duke it out over the lovely Jean (below). Farina, the promoter, makes each fighter believe that the other has agreed to take a dive.
Wallace Beery, Jackie Cooper
"Don't fail to get a ringside seat!" was the tagline for this weeper about a boozy, washed-up pug (Beery, above, who won an Oscar), his son, Dink, and sidekick, Sponge.
Moe Howard, Curly Howard, Larry Fine
Curly the Waiter KO's the Champ at a restaurant after hearing Larry play Pop Goes the Weasel on the violin.
William Holden (above), Barbara Stanwyck, Lee J. Cobb
Low blows meet high art when a violinist abandons the stage for the ring. Clifford Odets's literary vinegar is turned to honeyed hokum.
Errol Flynn, Alexis Smith, Alan Hale
Flynn (below) gives a perfectly judged performance as James J. Corbett, the brash, quick-witted San Francisco bank clerk who KO'd the great John L. Sullivan for the heavyweight title in 1892.
Body and Soul
John Garfield (below), Lilli Palmer
Stagey Socialist screed on money and the Little Man, in which a kid from the Lower East Side takes on the Mob and his conscience.
Shot in real time, long before 24, this chronicle of mendacity, venality and foolish pride is still Hollywood's most dead-on distillation of the sweet science. Ryan (left, in blue) makes a gracefully convincing fighter.
Out to Punch
Popeye, Bluto, Olive Oyl
Before their big bout, heavyweight Bluto stuffs Popeye's heavy bag with scrap iron and encases his boxing shoes in concrete. But when Olive finally breaks out the spinach....
The Harder They Fall
Humphrey Bogart, Rod Steiger, Max Baer
As windy as Champion ('49) and Somebody Up There Likes Me ('56), but with Bogart (above, right), in his final film, as a burned-out sportswriter who exposes a fixing scheme.
Requiem for a Heavyweight
Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason, Mickey Rooney
Melancholy mood piece by Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling about a shambling giant (Quinn, below, left) egged on to increasingly punishing rounds by his shady manager.
Jeff Bridges (right), Stacy Keach
John Huston's small masterpiece of skid row poetry is set in the smoky bars of Stockton, Calif., where the lives of two boxers (one on the way up; the other, down) intersect.
Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burgess Meredith
Before he started looking like Paul McCartney on steroids, before the ludicrous sequels, Stallone made a "rooting picture" with heart and just enough cruelty to give it resonance.
Muhammad Ali, Ernest Borgnine, James Earl Jones
Formulaic hero-worship that glosses over the not-so-great parts of The Greatest's life. Ali is oddly unconvincing as himself--Will Smith did him better in Ali (2001).
Robert De Niro (below), Joe Pesci
Martin Scorsese's raw, pulpy biopic of 1940s middleweight champion Jake LaMotta explodes with life and imagination.
When We Were Kings
Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Ali and Foreman prepare for their 1974 Rumble in the Jungle (below) in Leon Gast's Oscar winner, which captures Ali at his most vital.
Daniel Day-Lewis (right), Brian Cox
Sensitive, suspenseful and subtle-as-a-haymaker tale of a former IRA bomber whose Belfast boxing club unites Catholics and Protestants.
Washington (right) at his stoical best in a dutifully earnest, deeply sentimental, not-exactly-true story of 1960s middleweight contender Rubin (Hurricane) Carter, who spent 18 years in prison on a phony murder rap.
Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight
Weighing in at close to three hours, Michael Mann's handsomely mounted bio-epic may not exactly float like a butterfly, but it recreates the high points of Ali's most dramatic decade with stunning verisimilitude.
Million Dollar Baby
Clint Eastwood, Hillary Swank, Morgan Freeman
Eastwood's darkly funny, surprising and immensely moving tale of ambition and disillusionment is as close to an anti-Rocky as any sports movie ever made.
Ken Burns's riveting documentary on Jack Johnson (above), the first black heavyweight champ, uses Johnson's life as a template for understanding racial injustice.
The hits just keep coming. From feature films to documentaries to a reality TV series, boxing continues to get an on-screen workout. Here are four prospects to keep an eye on
NBC's reality series, the brainchild of boxing fan and Survivor creator Mark Burnett (above, with partner Sylvester Stallone), is set to debut March 7. The show follows the fortunes of 16 aspiring professional middleweights, living and training together in Los Angeles. Behind-the-scenes action, intercut with a series of elimination bouts, will give viewers a chance to get to know the boxers, who are vying for a $1 million payoff.
Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger
Crowe plays poverty-stricken former contender turned dockworker James J. Braddock (right), who pulled off one of boxing's great upsets by beating Max Baer for the heavyweight crown in 1935. Ron Howard directs--think Seabiscuit in 10-ounce gloves.
Ring of Fire
Emile Griffith, Benny (Kid) Paret
Documentary delves into the life of Griffith, who beat Paret to death in a 1962 bout (right). Paret had whispered slurs about Griffith's sexuality at the weigh-in.
Save Me, Joe Louis
Spike Lee and Budd Schulberg's yet-to-be green-lighted script centers on the 1938 Joe Louis--Max Schmeling bout.