There's no chronological imperative with this sort of thing otherwise we would have seen Sonny Liston and George Foreman tackled, two heavyweight champs just as intimidating as Tyson at their peak.
It's surprising no filmmaker spring boarded from the critically acclaimed Nick Tosches book The Devil and Sonny Liston and the Liston chapter in David Remnick's King of the World.
There are a lot of great elements at play in the life of the scowling man who came from a family of more than 20 children – the Mob, prison, Muhammad Ali, heroin, and Las Vegas, namely.
Maybe in the near future someone will take on Foreman. Sure, he was a bit ubiquitous a few years back but it does nothing to diminish his story, one of the more remarkable second acts of any public figure in American life, let alone athlete.
From patriotic Olympian to scowling champ who scored comic book worthy knockouts to upset loser to retiring reclusive preacher was interesting enough. But then the improbable comeback and upset KO for a portion of the heavyweight title at 45, the Teddy Bear persona and raking in megamillions in one of the few examples of an athlete doing well on a product endorsement.
Matthew Saad Muhammad
A man with three identities. He was abandoned on a Philadelphia parkway as child and sent to a Catholic orphanage. As Matthew Franklin, he learned to box and engaged in some of the most hellacious bouts of all time – the fight clips alone would be an eye-opener for any non-boxing fan. He eventually converted to Islam and found out after he became champion that his birth name was Maxwell Loach. Like a lot of fighters he hung on way too long, although he's not the sad, pathetic figure so many become.
Mi Vida Loca, Tapia's large tattoo, doesn't begin to describe it. Tapia's father was killed why he was still in his mother's womb. When Tapia was nine, his mother was raped and left for dead at the side of the road. It was only decades later that police could publicly ID her suspected killer (he'd long since died).
Tapia, a colourful and entertaining champion, beat fellow Albuquerque native and bitter rival Danny Romero in a brilliant performance in the biggest fight of his life. Managed by his wife, Tapia was undefeated for nearly a dozen years but that prowess has been overshadowed by a life filled with drug addiction and suicide attempts. An appearance on the voyeuristic Celebrity Rehab – which has been rumoured – wouldn’t do him justice.
Grew up in the Philly projects and was not yet 18 when he went in for a long-term bid for armed robbery. Learned to fight in prison and never re-offended upon his release. Lost his pro debut and didn't step back into the ring again for another year, a most inauspicious start for a future Hall of Famer. He was a solid pro for many years but had to watch others take the spotlight and the paydays until his first masterpiece – over previously unbeaten Felix Trinidad in the first big sporting event in New York City after 9/11. While a self-made man, he's managed to burn many bridges in the boxing world, but at the same time is now a business partner of a former rival, Oscar De La Hoya.
And three documentaries that are real:
HBO in August will present the documentary Assault in the Ring, which had languished for a couple of years and was originally known as Cornered. The recent Antonio Margarito illegal hand wrap controversy may have figured into the timing.
The doc centres on the 1983 fight between undefeated Billy Collins and Luis Resto. Collins's face was a pulpy mess afterward, and it was discovered that the horsehair had been removed from Resto's gloves. Resto and trainer Panama Lewis served prison sentences while Collins, 22, was unable to fight again and turned to the bottle, dying in a single-vehicle crash less than one year after the bout.
No word yet on any such airing for Kassim the Dream, which screened at the Tribeca Film Festival last year.
Junior middleweight Kassim Ouma was a child soldier in Uganda, as were several of his brothers. He would eventually reach the U.S. and became a top contender, though his best days are behind him. But can someone brought up amid death and violence ever escape it? He was shot in the abdomen in 2002 in Florida and tested positive for marijuana after one of his fights.
Finally, Facing Ali. By the looks of the trailer, this doc of Ali through the lens of his opponents promises to be weightier than the book title of the same name.
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