Boxing away to glory: When Muhammad Ali inspired Hollywood

  • Sneha Mahadevan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 06, 2016 19:28 IST
Ali, the magnificent heavyweight champion whose fast fists and irrepressible personality transcended sports and captivated the world died on Friday (AP)

Former world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, 74, breathed his last on Friday in Phoenix, United States. The legendary professional boxer died after putting up a fierce, long battle with Parkinson’s disease. In his illustrious career, he has inspired millions, on and off the boxing ring. As a tribute to the legendary sportsman, we take a look at the different films that celluloid witnessed on boxing.

Robert De Niro in Raging Bull.

Raging Bull (1980)

Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro, this film is a biographical black-and-white sports drama film adapted from Jake LaMotta’s memoir Raging Bull: My Story. De Niro plays the titular character - an Italian American middleweight boxer who is self destructive, has rage issues that sabotages his personal life. What is interesting is that De Niro was the one who persuaded Scorsese to direct the film.

Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

This Clint Eastwood directorial starring Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman and Eastwood himself is about a cynical boxing trainer who has taken up the mantle of coaching an amateur boxer, Margaret Fitzgerald played by Swank to become a professional. Swank was asked to gain 5 kilos of muscle and she ended up gaining almost 9 kilos by boxing for two and a half hours and lifting weights for another two hours.

Slyster Stallone in Rocky.

Rocky (1976)

Who hasn’t heard about Sylverster Stallone’s Rocky series where he plays Rocky Balboa, an Italian-American boxer who starts out as a local club fighter and works his way up to competing at the World Heavyweight championship? The film, a sleeper hit, set cash registers ringing and was the biggest hit of 1976 and won three Academy Awards along with catapulting Stallone to the A-league.

Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale in The Fighter

The Fighter (2010)

Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale’s cult performance as brothers in this David O Russell’s directed film won Bale an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role. The film centers on the lives of professional boxer Micky Ward (Wahlberg) and his older half-brother Dicky Eklund (Bale). In a bid to play the role convincingly, Bale ended up losing 14 kilos.

Russel Crowe in Cinderella Man.

Cindrella Man (2005)

Directed by Ron Howard and starring Russell Crowe and Renée Zellweger, this film is a story of James Braddock, an Irish-American boxer from New Jersey who comes back from the dumps to become a champion. He gets dubbed the Cinderella Man when a sportswriter learns of his rags to riches story. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards categories among others.

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