Champs review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
Champs is a fascinating take at the sport of boxing, since it perfectly captures the essence of the sport through telling the story of three champion boxers and all their hardships they had to endure in order to deserve that title. Their life experiences can be both read as these epic, grandiose achievements, but also as deeply personal threads that just kept them going and pushing forward despite all odds being against them. In fact, Champs is a perfect illustration of why we should not give up and continue pursuing our goals until either we make it, or sweat into non-existence as if we’ve never been.
Champs is a documentary directed by Bert Marcus, which predominantly tells the stories of three superstar fighters: Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, and Bernard Hopkins. What’s interesting is all of these stories begin with our real-life protagonists beating the odds, suddenly rising to fame, and then evaporating just as they came. The segments follow a three-act structure whilst themselves also being parts of a bigger whole. To this extent, director Marcus has succeeded in gluing these boxers’ seemingly different paths in life under one over-arching narrative thread that tells a cohesive story when everything’s said and done. And so, there are Mike Tyson’s now widely known trials and tribulations, Bernard Hopkins’ spell behind bars, and Holyfield’s rock bottom moments when he was completely broke.
Then, instead of weeping over their “grim” fates, these three characters decide (separately) they definitely need to get out of the neighborhood for good if they want to change their lives for the better. And their intentions are not so noble: these guys were (and still are) motivated by three underlying principles: money, violence, and the sense of “not belonging in their respective environments”.
More interestingly, Champs does not only tell three personal stories: it also delves deep into the social and economic aspects of the sport of boxing as well. Trainers and promoters give their two cents on where the sport is going, where it was, and how it can impact society in the many years going forward. The underlying mythos here is evident: “rich folks don’t box”, but rather “tough kids who have nothing to lose”. These “gangster kids” are drawn into the sport because of several reasons: boxing gives them a roof over their heads, it provides their tough personalities with a sense of order amidst all that chaos going on around them, and most importantly – it gives them a sense of belonging in a family. And this cannot be more evident than in the wisdom of matured Mike Tyson who articulates his points with both precision and wit.
Overall, Champs is a well-made documentary that takes you by the collar and never lets you go until its very end. It’s also a story about loss, perseverance, and emotional triumph. If you happen to be fond on either of these things – go ahead and give Champs a go.