Tag Archives: boxing

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Pop Culture Happy Hour: CREED II

Sly, Wood Harris, Michael B., and Jacob ‘Stitch’ Duran all return. (MGM)

It had been too long since I got to appear on a PCHH panel with the great Gene Demby from Code Switch, so I was very happy to find myself sitting beside him for this episode dissecting Creed II, which frustrated each of us in different ways. You can hear the episode here; my review of the movie is here.

Halo, Goodbye: Bleed for This, reviewed.

ciaran-hinds-miles-teller-and-aaron-eckhart-seacia-pavao

Here’s my NPR review of Bleed for This, writer-director Ben Younger’s new biopic about super middleweight champion Vinny Paz’s unlikely-but-true comeback from a massive injury. Not essential, but not bad.

Gonna Fly Again: Creed, reviewed.

In my NPR review of writer-director Ryan Coogler’s stirring new Rocky sequel Creed, I avoid mentioning that I sorta-cried four times during this movie but only once during Inside Out. Read it here, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Requiem for a Middleweight: Southpaw, reviewed.

Like Robert De Niro and Daniel Day-Lewis before him, Jake Gyllenhaal transformed his body to play a boxer. (Scott Garfield)Those who’re skeptical of the doctrine of self-mastery through sweat probably won’t find much to hold their interest in Southpaw, a boxing melodrama so old-fashioned it’s almost new. But I dug it. If my NPR review contains slightly fewer cliches than the movie does, it’s not because I took a dive.

Notes on Champ: Fetch Clay, Make Man and ABSOLUTELY! {perhaps}, reviewed.

Roscoe Orman and Eddie Ray Jackson as Stehin Fetchit and Muhammad Ali in "Fetch Clay, Make Man."

Roscoe Orman and Eddie Ray Jackson as Stephin Fetchit and Muhammad Ali in Fetch Clay, Make Man. (Round House Theatre)

My review of Round House Theatre‘s strong production of Will Power‘s Fetch Clay, Make Man, a play about the unlikely friendship of Muhammad Ali and Stephin Fetchit, is in today’s Washington City Paper. I also review Constellation Theatre‘s update of a century-old Luigi Pirandello play, ABSOLUTELY! {perhaps}. Continue reading

Mouth Almighty: I Am Ali, reviewed.

Muhammad Ali with his then-wife Veronica Porche and their daughter Hana in the 1970s.

“Muhammad Ali is our black Paul Bunyan,” wrote Budd Schulberg in the New York Times 16 years ago, “except that Bunyan’s superhuman exploits were fables and Ali’s are real.”

Muhammad Ali is already the subject of many, many fine books and films. The distinguishing feature of the new documentary I Am Ali, which I reviewed for NPR today, is that filmmaker Clare Lewins was given permission to use never-before-released private tapes that Ali made of his conversations with his daughters and close confidants for his own enjoyment.

As someone who has listened to all 537 episodes of This American Life, many of them more than once and some of them more than twice, and who has annoyed my parents, brother, friends, and girlfriends by recording lengthy interviews with them on various occasions, this approach strikes a chord with me. The recorded voice of someone speaking to one other person will always feel more intimate than a close-up photograph ever could – to me, at least. Continue reading

Radio Radio: On Downtown Boxing Club, for Metro Connection

Downtown Boxing Club trainer Dave White

Trainer Dave White

The thermostat at Downtown Boxing Club read 43 degrees — Fahrenheit — the Sunday afternoon I spent reporting this story for Metro Connection. It felt strange to be in a boxing gym and not be moving around. I’ve wanted to go train at this place for years; a couple of the guys I train with off and on have told me good things. Anyway, I’d better get on it: Downtown Boxing Club will have to move this year, for the third time in its 15-year existence.

You can hear the piece here. I was sorry to have to lose the part where trainer Dave White says that to land a punch you have to be quick enough to catch a penny.

Wish I Were There: Ephemera

One thing I brood about when I read a really great memoir, like Keith Richards’ Life, just for example, is that I have a poor memory. There is no good reason why this should be. I’m only in my midthirties and I’ve never touched hard drugs in my life, so the fact that 70-year-old Keef can write in vivid detail about his postwar boyhood after a lifetime of committed drug abuse makes me feel like I just got dealt a bad hand. (Keef takes pains throughout his book to attribute his startling longevity to the fact that all the drugs he did were of the finest quality; Merck medical-grade cocaine and so on. I have no idea if that’s a real thing or not, but it’s in his book.) Continue reading

Eleven-punch combination

The guy who looks like Mr. Clean is Ken, a pal I’ve been working out with for years. He surprised me last night by setting up his camera at our semi-regular Tuesday-night focus mitt session. (We both teach boxing classes on Wednesday nights, so Tuesdays are a good opportunity for us to get some rounds in.)

Everyone likes to work mitts: You’re developing your speed, stamina, balance and punching power all at the same time, and you feel like you’re accomplishing something. A good partner will keep you motivated by swatting you on the ear or clipping your forehead if you get lazy and let your hands drop, a feature no heavy bag can offer. Continue reading

Do the Fight Thing: More on Sucker Punch, now that I’ve seen it.

Sheldon Best & Manny Brown in Studio's SUCKER PUNCH (Scott Suchman)

I did a follow-up to my Washington City Paper feature about the fight choreography in the Studio Theatre’s current U.S. premiere of Roy Williams’s boxing play Sucker Punch after the play had opened, and after the Washington Post had run their subsequent story on the same topic.

The Fight Stuff: Selling the boxing in Studio Theatre’s Sucker Punch

Please read my feature in today’s Washington City Paper about the fight direction in Studio Theatre‘s U.S. premiere of Roy Williams‘s Sucker Punch.

It never occurred to me to check into this until I started working on this story, but did you know that there is no Tony Awards category, nor is there, closer to home, a Helen Hayes Awards category for excellence in fight direction? Madness!

If you live in or will be visiting Our Nation’s Capitol on a Wednesday evening, drop me a line and you can come to my boxing class for free just for mentioning this story. You don’t even have to read it, because how would I know? We’re on the honor system here. And only you know if you’re an honorable person or not. Continue reading

Feint Praise: The Sweet Science on Stage

From the University of Maryland's original Joe Louis opera, "Shadowboxer," April 2010.

Boxing! So misunderstood! I hate to keep picking on Golden Boy, but mulling over what rubbed me so wrong about it did me the idea to examine some boxing plays that’ve been performed here in DC and in New York recently. So I did that. And before you tell me, yes, I know that some of the movies Clifford Odets worked on in Hollywood are, for all his agita about selling out, much better than Golden Boy. (The Sweet Smell of Success springs immediately to mind.) Continue reading

The Battle It Hadn’t Occurred to You That You Wanted to See!

Great Scott! Book critic, comics blogger, and friend-for-life Glen Weldon — the Green Lantern to my Green Arrow — invited me to participate in an exegesis of SUPERMAN VS. MUHAMMAD ALI, an essential cultural artifact of the 1970s. I’ve had a framed copy of the cover hanging in my apartment for years, in my bathroom in point of fact. But as with so many of the classics, I never actually read it until assigned to do so.

Anyway: Read all about it on your National Public Radio!

Float like that one thing; sting like another thing: A conversation with Boxing Gym director Frederick Wiseman

I teach a boxing class on Wednesday evenings. It’s at a general-interest gym, not a boxing gym, so we’re not equipped or insured for sparring, and we don’t have a speed bag or a double-ended bag, though I’m working on that. We drill with heavy bags and focus mitts with lots of calisthenics stirred in, and people looking for an intense and unique workout really seem to like it. Most folks who try the class once come back.

Anyway, I interviewed Frederick Wiseman, director of the new documentary Boxing Gym and more than three dozen others, for the Washington City Paper. You can read that here.

In Shadowboxer, the Brown Bomber gets an opera

When Joe Louis took only 124 seconds to knock out Max Schmeling in 1938, it was one of the most historic sports triumphs of the 20th century.

Schmeling, a reluctant representative of Nazi Germany, had defeated Louis two years earlier, and the Reich’s propagandists had proclaimed that result — Louis’s first professional loss — as a demonstration of Aryan supremacy. The rematch was broadcast in dozens of languages. In dispatching Schmeling, Louis became a hero to a world that trembled before the ascendant Nazi war machine, and the first black man to achieve broad acceptance as a symbolic ambassador for the United States.

Leon Major, artistic director of the Maryland Opera Studio, was five years old when his father turned on the radio to hear that fight. It was over in less time than it took Major’s dad, a tailor in the shtetl, to get a glass of tea from the kitchen.

Now 77, Major isn’t quite sure whether he remembers the match firsthand, or if he heard about it later. Memory is funny that way, especially when we’re very young. But Major vividly recalls Louis’s career-ending loss to Rocky Marciano in 1951.

“That incident stayed with me, because it was so devastating to so many people,” Major says. Even Marciano had looked up to Louis — he visited the fallen champ backstage after the fight to apologize for beating him.

Four decades would pass before Major began thinking seriously about making Louis’s life the subject of an opera, but once the notion seized him, it wouldn’t let go, even after numerous composers and a librettists turned the commission down. Some even suggested an opera about Jackie Robinson instead. Continue reading

SilverDocs: Facing Ali

Ron Lyle, one of 10 boxers interviewed in "Facing Ali."

I wish I’d had time to write a more thorough review of Pete McCormack’s superb Facing Ali. But here‘s the quickie I did write, for DCist.

Enter SilverDocs!

silverdocs_logoI’m just getting going on the screeners for the 2009 SilverDocs entries I’ll be reviewing for DCist, but my first batch of reviews was in today’s CityPaper. All but one are shorts: Behold my notices vis-a-vis Voices from El-Sayed, My White Baby, The Solitary Life of Cranes, and The First Kid to Learn English from Mexico.

Next week, I’ll have reviews up of (at least) Best Worst Movie, Winnebago Man, Supermen of Malegaon, and Facing Ali. I’ll be attending a screening of the latter next Tuesday with Muhammad Ali himself in attendance. He’s so bad he makes medicine sick! Can’t wait.

Raging Bear: Kassim the Dream at SILVERDOCS

Reviewed for DCist.

David Segal had a great WashPo feature about Kassim in the paper on Monday.