Basketball and racquetball are the two favorite sports I play. The two favorite sports I don’t participate in are football and boxing. As a kid I loved watching boxing on Wide World of Sports, and read a lot of books about the sweet science.
Lennox Lewis was one of those athletes most people didn’t like, for the very reasons I liked him. He wasn’t loud, obnoxious, or controversial. He was classy, well-spoken (well, at least he sounds that way with the British accent). He even plays chess. The most controversial thing he did was to be expelled from school for fighting, while he was living with an abusive aunt. Even when he started fighting in the ring instead of at school, coaches all said how great he was about making eye contact, listening to them, and absorbing every word.
There was a brief time when he boxed that I thought he was dodging some of the bigger heavyweights, but he eventually fought ‘em all and gained my respect. I even bought a pair of boxing gloves signed by him and Tony “TNT” Tucker. And by the end of his career, I had him ranked in my Top 10 heavyweights of all-time (behind Ali, Joe Louis, Jack Johnson, Foreman, Holmes, Holyfield, and Marciano…a name I can’t even type without thinking of Eddie Murphy’s voice in Coming to America).
I was thrilled to see there was this documentary that could tell me more about the one boxer on my Top 10 that I knew nothing about.
It was a bummer to hear Dr. Dre narrating it. Especially at one point when he says Lewis “kicked his ass in the second round.” Um…Lewis was known for being classy. I doubt he would ever refer to beating a fighter as “kicking his ass.”
And we see Jim Lampley as one of the talking heads. Why not have one of those boxing voices like him, or Michael “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” Buffer narrating? Or Sugar Ray? But Dr. Dre?!
Lewis grew up in a poor area of the east end in London. His dad wasn’t around, and his mom soon went to Canada for work, leaving him behind. He was put in a home at some point, and eventually reunited with his mom in Canada. While there, he met Artie, who would coach him and become a father figure. He’d even take Lewis camping and fishing.
We see him sparring with Mike Tyson when they were both young teens (with Tyson really putting a beating on him). He’d eventually win an Olympic gold medal and become a successful pro.
While this documentary is called “the untold story” they go on to show us a story that, well…is pretty much already known if you followed his fights. They go through his pro career, which we (boxing fans) all watched. Now, that doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting. I enjoyed every minute of this. I just wish we learned more about him outside the ring. Even the interesting few times his wife Violet speaks (she has the same name as his mom, which is odd), I was left wondering about her. I had to research, to find she was a Miss Jamaica runner-up. We never heard of Lewis dating anyone while boxing, and he got married and had kids with Violet after retiring.
The most “controversial” thing of all this, is what happens with Lewis’s former manager. I won’t ruin that here, but it was an interesting side story.
I would have liked to have seen a few more boxers commenting on Lewis. We do see Tyson, who once famously threatened to eat his heart, and eat his children. He smiles and laughs about those times.
Local San Diegan Lampley, the boxing commentator for HBO, has a few interesting things to say about what a class act Lewis was.
It was fun to see him fighting Riddick Bowe in the 88 Olympics, and a trip down memory lane, to see the fight in the early ‘90s with Razor Ruddock (I thought Lewis was going to lose that one).
I’m always surprised when people can notice the talent of athletes so young. Jerry West saw a 15-year-old Kobe Bryant playing basketball and knew he’d be great and always wanted him on the Lakers. Cus D’Amato had these two spar as teens, and said they’d both be dominating the sport some day. He was right.
You can’t have a boxing movie without that dingbat Don King. We hear him bragging that he got Sean Connery to do voice-overs for something. He proudly says, “James Bond, baby!”
And of course, King is one of the few reasons I stopped caring about boxing; and one of those things was the fight with Evander Holyfield, which Lewis clearly won, but it was ruled a draw. Everyone knows it was rigged. And that led to our seeing Jon Stewart interview Lewis, who says that Holyfield got $15 million, he got $10 million and King got the same amount as him — $10 mil. He added, “And he didn’t have to step in the ring.” To which Stewart responds, “Maybe you guys should have beat the sh** out of him.”
One of his last fights was with Vitali Klitschko, who I thought Lewis was going to try to avoid back in the day. I also remember thinking he’d lose to Klitschko. And with that impressive win, Lewis became one of only three fighters to beat every single person he ever fought (even if that meant in a rematch after losing). He’s also one of only three to retire with the title. Both impressive feats.
Boxing makes for some of the best sports movies — Rocky, Raging Bull, Cinderella Man, The Fighter, Requiem for a Heavyweight, etc. And it can make for some solid documentaries, too. Even if this was more like one of those fights with no big knockout punches in the story, it’s worth checking out if you’re a sports fan.
3 ½ stars out of 5, and you can catch it on all digital platforms and on demand.