5 GREAT BOXING DOCS
WHEN WE WERE KINGS (1996) Well, obviously. Leon Gast’s joyous film captures the moment when Muhammad Ali passed from mere mortal to an avatar for the ages. Relating the great fight with George Foreman from 1974, the picture revels in talking heads such as Norman Mailer, George Plimpton and Spike Lee.
SOUTH PAW: THE FRANCIS BARRETT STORY
(1999) One of the highlights of the 1996 Olympics was Francie Barrett’s (above) emergence as a fighter and personality. The boxer carried the flag at the opening ceremony and became an icon of the Traveller community. Liam McGrath’s doc is a great primer.
UNFORGIVABLE BLACKNESS: THE RISE AND FALL OF JACK JOHNSON
(2004) The indefatigable Ken Burns tackles the sad story of Jack Johnson, first African-American Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, in a typically rigorous and gripping film for PBS. Great score by Wynton Marsalis. Effective voiceover from Samuel L Jackson.
RING OF FIRE: THE EMILE GRIFFITH STORY
(2005) The most likely subject of Lenny Abrahamson’s next feature, Emile Griffith (above) is best known for a notorious fight against Benny Paret in 1962. Paret, who had taunted Griffith, a bisexual, with homophobic remarks, died 10 days after losing the bout. A rigorous doc featuring top-notch contributors.
(2008) A decade before Katie, Ross Whitaker delivered this stirring film following three fighters at the admirable St Saviour’s Olympic Boxing Academy in north Dublin. The film is at least as valuable as a snapshot of Dorset Street and surroundings in the opening years of the 21st century.