In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it.
Originally posted on MovieJawn.
As a boxing fan, I can comfortably say that the current state of the sport is absolutely abysmal. Production values have fallen through the floor, despite regular increases in pay-per-view prices, the officiating is much more interested in creating a narrative than a fair fight, and the fighters have little incentive to actually box one another, instead dancing together with the hopes that the scorecards will call the fight in their favor. Add to that the lack of exciting heavyweights, and the regular inclusion of Floyd Mayweather, a man who has thoroughly earned his place as the poster child of spousal abuse, and you have a sport that’s standing on rubbery legs, waiting to be counted out.
But this wasn’t always the case. In the 1990s, boxing was arguably at its peak, at least in terms of the heavyweight division. Those amongst it included Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Vitali Klitschko, and the great George Foreman (who regained his title after a considerable hiatus from the sport). Basically, every character in Punch-Out has a real world analog, and the ‘90s had them all vying for the same belt. Amidst these champions, many of whom were quite controversial figures, stands Lennox Lewis, the three-time heavyweight champion who bested just about everyone, and did so with a level of class and precision rarely seen in the sport.
Depiction of such is the goal of Lennox Lewis: The Untold Story, a film that uses talking heads, archival footage, and a handful of re-enactments to give us as complete a picture of its subject as has ever been put forth. For the most part, it’s a success. While the film feels like much more of a TV special than a piece of cinema, it’s also an extremely compelling documentary, tracing Lewis’ turbulent childhood, his love affair with boxing, and his successes and failures within the sport, leading to his present day life of charity and family. As a man of Jamaican heritage, who grew up in England, and spend much of his young adult life in Canada, Lewis has always declared himself to be a citizen of the world — an “international champion” — and the film is smartly centered around this wonderful idea.
Also at the center of the doc is the “rivalry” between Lewis and Tyson, two men whose goals were identical, but whose paths were wildly different. The film chalks this disparity up to a variety of things, mostly environmental, and uses this notion as an opportunity to highlight the members of Lewis’ team. For the most part, he’s kept the same team for his entire career, and many of them are childhood friends and family members, each with stories of their own. It’s delightful to see at a time when (yes, I’m about to lament the current state of boxing again), most teams are put together in favor of image rather than function. Let’s just say there’s a reason why Lewis considers chess to be part of his training, and it’s not because playing chess looks cool (although The Queen’s Gambit makes a strong case that it does).
When it comes to Lewis’ professional career, Lennox Lewis: The Untold Story features some incredible fight footage, in which Lewis’ wins and losses are equally represented, helping to highlight the idea that Lewis is a man who sees defeat not as an end, but a chance to learn and grow. Unlike a lot of fighters, it would seem his ego is pretty well in check, which points to why Lewis’ skills always seemed to be on the rise — contentment, the fighter opines, is a great way to lose one’s edge. That said, I do wish the film featured more footage of these fights. Oftentimes in boxing, the rhythm and drama of a bout manifests over multiple rounds, and a lot of that is lost in highlights. This is precisely why every Rocky movie features an in-fight montage during the final battle. It’s just good cinema. Still, the big moments are captured here, and the drama is mostly found. Short of a messily edited “final” fight with Iron Mike, it was a joy to once again see these great bouts from my favorite era of boxing.
I should also add that all of this is narrated by Dr. Dre. He’s the right man for the job.
Lennox Lewis: The Untold Story is now streaming on Crackle.