Cinema has taught me that the only sport worth making movies about is boxing. If you want to win awards, boxing has a great track record for Oscars. Rocky, Million Dollar Baby, Raging Bull, and The Fighter have collectively won all of the major Oscars, with writing being the only exception. There are two best pictures in that list, as well as movies featuring two best directors, a best actor, a best actress, two supporting actors, a supporting actress, and two best editors. At least two of those movies are considered two of the best of all time, while the other two are both well-regarded with their legacies still unknown.
So why boxing? Why do boxing movies endure and win critical acclaim and put bums on seats. Because the sport transcends borders and language. You could make the greatest movie ever about baseball tomorrow, but you would struggle to fill a cinema in England or Australia, much in the same way that if you made a masterpiece about soccer or cricket you would see the movie tank in the American market.
Boxing – two people hitting each other until one can’t hit anymore – is a lingua franca that the world can understand. It is taking your spot in the ring against an opponent and seeing if you can rain punishment upon them and resist the punishment they rain upon you. Simply put, kicking a ball into a net doesn’t have the same sort of metaphorical symbolism.
Consider Rocky, the story of a man fighting for what he believes in, trying to show the world that he’s not a bum and that he’s got the strength to weather the pummeling he is taking in life. And then he has a boxing match. People forget that Rocky is a movie that has boxing in it as opposed to a boxing movie. The same can be said of the other three examples I quoted at the top. Boxing is the grand metaphor for struggle and pain and resistance. It becomes the characters’ way of fighting back at the world, standing their ground, being a winner (at least, in their own eyes) for once.
Cinema has taught me that good drama is one thing, but good drama in which your main character is always on the brink of having to beat the shit out another human being for money/pride/revenge is a whole other type of drama. Baseball just doesn’t cut it when you’ve seen Jake La Motta in black and white or Hilary Swank with Clint in her corner. The actual sport of boxing may never get back to its heyday, but cinema has taught me that that doesn’t matter, because when the movies are this good, who needs the sport?