Thom Loverro: Boxing is still alive and well on the silver screen

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Sports,Thom Loverro

If boxing is a dying sport, someone ought to tell Hollywood.

Turns out that picking the bones of a sport that was once center stage in the theater of sports is good movie-making business.

Plans are in the works for a film about the great Roberto Duran called "Hands of Stone," and according to reports, a big part of that will be Duran's three fights with Palmer Park, Md., native and all-time great Sugar Ray Leonard.

Grammy Award-winning singer Usher will portray Leonard in the film. I wonder who will play Washington public relations legend and Leonard PR man Charlie Brotman? Brad Pitt?

Other boxing films are around the corner. Robert DeNiro -- who starred as Jake LaMotta in one of the greatest boxing films of all time, the Academy Award-winning "Raging Bull" -- will reportedly play Duran's trainer, Ray Arcel. Following that, DeNiro is supposed to appear with Rocky himself, Sylvester Stallone, in "Grudge Match," an upcoming film about two aging fighters.

Former Washington Post writer William Gildea's extraordinary book, "The Longest Fight," about the life of Baltimore boxing legend Joe Gans, the first African-American world champion, has been optioned for a film.

Three years ago, one of the top films was "The Fighter," starring Mark Wahlberg as boxer Micky Ward. It was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning two for best supporting actor and actress. Wahlberg's getting back into the ring for a sequel, focusing on Ward's three memorable battles with Arturo Gatti.

The best stories are of fighters, in and out of the ring.

Boxing films should be separated from other sports films in comparisons because if you make a top 10 list of greatest sports films, more than half of them might be boxing movies. No one is lining up to make football films even though the NFL remains the top dog in the sports food chain. Boxing -- and horse racing, another sport that makes only an occasional appearance this time of year on the American sports menu -- are both Hollywood favorites.

And the crop of great boxing stories still awaiting screen treatment is a healthy one.

Muhammad Ali's life was portrayed by Will Smith in "Ali." But there is a film there to be made simply on the trilogy of the Ali-Joe Frazier heavyweight wars. "When We Were Kings," made in 1996, perhaps the greatest sports documentary of all time, was about the Ali-George Foreman heavyweight title fight in Zaire. But no one in sports has had a more interesting life than Foreman, from street thug to Olympic hero, to heavyweight champion, to his fall and rise as a minister, to his comeback as heavyweight champion at the age of 45.

My name isn't Martin Scorsese, but that's a movie waiting to be made.

Examiner

columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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Thom Loverro

Sports columnist
The Washington Examiner