Overview: An examination of Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, and Bernard Hopkins: boxing greats of the ‘90s. Bert Marcus Productions; Not Rated; 2015; 85 Minutes.
The Sport: Champs exists to illuminate an entire sport through the mistreatment of its star athletes through the egocentric effort of its proprietors. In a sport that pushes forward millions of dollars a year, boxing has no system in place to protect the athletes physically or financially. Highlighting these problems brings on a different identity to the film, making it far more about the protection of the athletes than what they achieved in their career. The shift makes sense in the end and hopefully sparks interest towards an effort to change the standards of the sport. It’s weird that we as a culture are so emotionally invested in the punishment our athletes take. I am guilty of brandishing my fandom and forgetting about the short, painful career that athletes endure (especially in contact sports). Drastic measures need to be taken and Champs seems to have a keen understanding of that, even if it is handled in a glib manner.
The Sad Nostalgic Side: Those who grew up in this golden age of boxing have a deep emotional attachment to the sport and especially to the boxers portrayed in Champs (I caught the end of the era). Yes, in the golden age Ali was phenomenal but there is a time period rule in sports. This documentary is an awesome reminder of how awesome boxing used to be, but also a sad reminder that these fighters suffered a jaded end to their careers and struggled to hang up their gloves. But in a sport where there is no base salary or compensation outside of what’s made for the event fighting, it’s hard to stop when you have bills to pay. I am a firm believer that all professional sports should have mandatory financial counseling, but boxing has a lot to work on before worrying about that.
Understanding: If anything, outside of its forceful intentions, Champs highlights the true triumph of these three prodigious boxers. All three were subject to poverty and the problems associated with it, eventually reaching past these boundaries to achieve true greatness physically, financially, but most importantly mentally. Mike Tyson, one of my all time favorite athletes, sparked a love for boxing that my dad, brother, and I will always share, so hearing him talk about his life and career made me reflect (tough love in my family). Man, let’s watch a Tyson knockout compilation.
Overall: Champs suffers an identity problem as each of the three acts has something different to say. From an exploration of these three, to roots, to the problems with the business aspect, the film sets out to provide a voice of reason pertaining to the mistreatment of boxers. With a more focused outlook and a more in your face representation, Champs could have achieved a larger audience to spread its important perspective.