HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:67
Boxing is one of America’s biggest sports. It’s been around in one form or another since before football was introduced as a major sport. Even before baseball. Men (and women) have had the innate desire to compete against each other in physical combat for about as long as man has been in existence. The desire to fight (even if it’s only in play) burns within mankind and the amount of sports that have capitalized on that is enormous. Even though boxing isn’t AS big as it once was in during the 20th century, it still garners incredible support from fans and is one of the biggest money makers in the sporting industry (ironically mostly for the managers and promoters). “Champs” takes an interesting angle on the sport of boxing, focusing on three of the most visible and well known boxers of the last quarter century. Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, and Bernard Hopkins.
My first impression from the trailer was that “Champs” was going to be a rundown on the sport of boxing and its history. Instead director Bert Marcus looks at it from the viewpoint of the three heavyweight champions that are mentioned above and gives a harsh look at the pitfalls and troubles of boxing in a modern age. The first act is devoted mainly to the backstory and rough upbringing of the boxers. None of them had it easy, and they all came from the “ghetto” hoping to make a better life for themselves. As they said. Rich kids don’t fight. Fighting is for poor kids who want to get out of the life they’re in. Interspersed with the interview footage from the fighters are commentaries from actors Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and even film director/writer Ron Howard (all boxing fans). Marcus spends time discussing the American Dream and the dark places many of these fighters come from in hopes of that dream being actualized.
The second act shifts the focus to a more positive light, showing the rise (and subsequent fall) of all three fighters. There’s nothing more invigorating than watching Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield in the ring. Even though Evander won 5 heavyweight championship belts, watching Mike throw that hook and uppercut combo that he was famous for just made me feel like a little boy again, watching the fights on TV. My jaw hurts just looking at the impact of that right hook that Tyson was capable of. Tyson, Holyfield and Hopkins grew INSANELY rich from their fights. Some estimating that Evander and Tyson made over $200 million EACH in their careers. Mansions were built, tigers were bought and women were wined and dined, but as with most things, it had to come to an end. We’re walked through the famous rape charges, subsequent jail time and rampant drug use of Tyson, watching a once great boxer start to slide from the top of his throne. As he started to decline, Evander Holyfield was on his way up, defeating Tyson in an unheard of knockout blow and dominating the scene for years to come. As with his predecessor, Holyfield spent too much time in the ring and his body just wouldn’t let him be champion any longer.
A very unique aspect of this documentary is the focus on the corruption and greed that is rampant in the industry. It’s a poorly kept secret that the boxing industry is corrupt beyond belief, with illegal fights, gamblings, unscrupulous managers and the like taking advantage of fighters who know nothing about that type of thing. The Italian mafia has been rumored for over 90 years to have their fingers deep within that little pie, let alone managers like Don King who made millions and then through their moneymaker’s away when they were done with them. The least section of “Champs” goes into graphic detail about the fall of many a boxer through being taken advantage of by these wolves in sheeps clothing and talking about how the boxing commission needs a complete overhaul and to be regulated like any other sport (I’m actually surprised that it is one of the few sports that STILL isn’t federally regulated).
“Champs” is a solid documentary that really shines when you’re watching those pieces of footage of the stars in their prime, but it still has some incredible insight and very poignant issues that it tries to deal with in the modern day of the sport. I have to agree with many of his criticisms, as the fighting industry is about as clean and honest as the race tracks were in the 20th century. Gambling, fixing fights, horrible mistreatment of the fighters by sleazy managers, the list is a mile long. That being said, there are still some flaws to the movie, the major one being that only 3 major fighters are interviewed and a few people within the industry. The rest of the filler is done by actors who have an interest in the sport, rather than other industry insiders with more pertinent information. Seeing Mark Wahlberg on screen, or Denzel is all well and good, but most of their comments seemed to be the comments of fans, rather than anything that moved the documentary along.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=45578[/img]Shot with modern digital cameras for the interviews spliced with footage from back in the heydays of the fighters, “Champs” can look a bit uneven (although it’s rarely the fault of the disc). The digitally shot interview material is usually quite good, depending on which camera was used in which location. The reenactment bits tended to look a bit hazy, but still retained excellent detail, while the face to face interview pieces looked immaculate. Bright colors and rich textures keep those points the highlight of the video encode. The old stock footage from the fights and interviews from back in the day look nasty and beaten up, mostly taken from old tape stock which was available to them back then.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=45586[/img]The singular 5.1 Dolby Digital track available on the disc does the job quite nicely, and as you probably assumed, is rather front heavy. Dialog is the main focus point of the audio experience as the interviewees dictate their stories and their experiences to the camera. However, they added a nice musical score that stays constantly engaged and fully active the whole time. Balance between the dialog and the score is excellent, with strong bass response and a room filling intensity. The sound of the fights also make those surround channel give a little more than they normally wood and end up creating a fairly energetic mix for a genre film such as this.
“Champs” is well done little documentary that takes a different point of view from your average biopic about a sport. There’s plenty of spit and polish and hoo-rahing of the sport, but the sobering take on one of America’s most important sports is drastically different than others that I have seen recently. It’s a bit choppy in places, especially with the filler material by different actors, but overall it’s a very entertaining film with some solid technical specs (minus the lack of ANY extras). If you like sports documentaries, it’s well worth the watch.
Starring: Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Bernard Hopkins
Director: Bert Marcus
Written By: Bert Marcus
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 MPEG2
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1, English DD 2.0
Studio: Anchor Bay
Runtime: 91 Minutes
DVD Release Date: May 12th, 2015
Buy Champs DVD on Amazon
Recommendation: Check it Out
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