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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
After 17 years as a recognized and respected sports journalist in New York City, Eddie Willis finds himself out of a job when his newspaper folds. He's approached by a major fight promoter, Nick Benko, to act as a public relations man for his new heavyweight fighter Toro Moreno. Eddie knows the how the fight game works and after watching Toro in the ring, realizes Toro is nothing but a stiff who has no hope of succeeding. Benko offers him a sizable salary and an unlimited expense account and given his financial situation, he agrees. Benko's strategy to make money is one that has been used time again. Starting in California and moving east, they arrange a series of fights for Toro with stiffs and has-beens. All of the fights are rigged to build up his record and get him a fight with the heavyweight champion, Buddy Brannen, where they will make a sizable profit at the gate. Along the way, one boxer gets killed in the ring and Eddie begins to have serious doubts about what he is doing. Written by
Primo Carnera unsuccessfully sued the film's makers, claiming it damaged his reputation for implying that he was involved in fixed fights. Carnera's career is one of the biggest mysteries in boxing, as many of the sport's historians believe that, without Carnera's knowledge, his managers paid most of his opponents to throw their fights. See more »
As Eddie crosses a row a seats on his way to sit down at the Dundee fight, the collar of his overcoat turns up and down. See more »
Can he box?
No Gene Tunney.
Can he punch?
Not like Jack Dempsey.
Well, what's he got besides just being big?
He's got an iron jaw and a cast-iron stomach. Not a man alive can hurt him.
See more »
Although this movie is now 50 years old I think that it is more relevant now than it was then in 1956. Prize fighting has moved on leaps and bounds since then, some of it positive and some negative. Of course it depends on your point of view about boxing and in some respects the message that this movie sends is totally dependent on that view. Some might say that it is anti boxing but I would say that it is a realistic portrayal of the business of professional boxing.
In this movie a boxing promoter Nick Benko (Rod Steiger) hires a washed up sports writer Eddie Willis (Humphry Bogart) to help talk up and help with the promotion of a new boxing sensation called Toro an Argentinean giant (6' 8" and 270 Ib.) "the wild man of the Andes". Unfortunately, Toro despite his size couldn't punch his way out of a wet paper bag and even worse, has a chandelier jaw to match. Any decent fighter worth his weight would turn Toro's legs into linguine with a decent combination of punches. Despite this obvious problem Benko is not perturbed and along with his crooked associates stage a series of fights where Toros opponents are bribed to throw the fights after a couple of rounds. The ultimate goal is to make Toro look much better than he really is.
The result of a string of wins against some decent opponents allows Toro to build up an impressive boxing resume and consequently his stock value in the world of boxing rises too. The tragedy is that Toro starts to believe in his own ability and Willis who feels he has a sense of responsibility towards Toro because he is partly responsible for the hype has a genuine feeling of affection for Toro who in reality is a naive gentle giant who only wants to go back to Argentina and buy his parents a home with his money.The ending of the movie is perhaps somewhat predictable but not without honor and your belief in humanity is some what left intact.
In offering full disclosure I think that boxing can be one of the most entertaining and exciting sporting events. The 1981 welterweight unification bout between Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns and the 1989 commonwealth title fight between middle weights Michael Watson and Nigel Benn both spring to mind. Fights are no more intense and exciting as these two and both lived up to pre-fight hype. However, on the down side boxing is riddled with miss matches and over hyped fighters. Frank Bruno a British heavyweight and world contender in the 1980's and early 1990's was one. Blessed with a well chiseled physic he built up an impressive KO record, yet when he came up against anybody half decent or not payed to take a dive he was found out and not nearly as powerful as we were led to believe. Also there is an alphabet soup of world bodies who claim to represent a world champion, phony fights and "Mexican road sweepers" who fall over when instructed too.
It's also important to note that boxing is also entertainment but more importantly a business and this movie portrays this very well. Yes big business, which goes some way to explain why there is so many promoters, world bodies, fighters, world title fights of some description. Boxing is like any other business it's marketed, promoted and sold to the public as entertainment and consequently to sell out crowds and large PPV TV audience or else exclusive TV rights. It's big money and there's a lot to be made, there are a lot of snouts in the trough claiming a cut of the money.
When you hear of a boxer getting paid $30 million a fight, by the time all of the expenses are taken into account, all the entourage get their slice the fighter gets considerably less. The fighter in effect is just one cog in the giant machine of the business in boxing, although an important part never the less he can't get the big fights unless they are a team player and play ball with the promoters. This movie in particular portrays this very well! I have no problem with the business nature, entertainment or the violence of boxing. As for the public or TV companies who are fooled into believing the hype of up and coming fighters and are willing to pay so much to watch fights under false pretenses -that's too bad. What I'm concerned with the welfare of the fighters when so many people are filthy rich out of prize fighting. In the end of the movie Eddie Willis concludes that boxing should be banned. That's the anti boxing message, however boxing can't be banned! The scandal is the fighters who end up seriously injured and broke either through the trauma of one fight i.e Gerald McClellan or through a succession of fights like the Quarry brothers who both ended up with brain damage and consequently in assisted living accommodation.
There are too many fat cats in boxing who are not accountable for the injuries that their fighters suffer while in the ring, this needs to be addressed and sorted out. To me this is what the movie is saying!
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