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The Best Boxing Documentaries to Watch

Boxing is having a moment right now. From highly anticipated heavyweight bouts to exhibitions of old rivals — to the insanely hyped celeb boxing — fans both new and old are turning their eyes to the sport’s latest renaissance. Notice how we say “latest,” for boxing already features many great moments of glory in its rich history.

And with all those moments come stories: Stories filled with larger-than-life knockouts by larger-than-life men, and women! It would take all day to set forth all the boxing documentaries that are worth watching, but this list should give you a good place to start. You’ll learn more about the most historic fights, the biggest fighters, and the global reach the sport has owned since the dawn of its existence.

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When We Were Kings

When We Were Kings Doc

Winner of the 1996 Academy Award’s Best Documentary Feature, When We Were Kings is a retelling of the iconic Rumble in the Jungle heavyweight bout between George Forman and Muhammad Ali in 1974. It was one of the best boxing matches of all time. Director Leon Gast worked for 22 years to secure enough funding to finish the documentary, and when it was finally finished, it received strong critical acclaim. There’s original footage, analysis of the fight itself, as well as a detailed backdrop of the rise of Ali and the political implications of how the fight was held in Zaire — a country ruled by dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

  • Director: Leon Gast
  • Run Time: 1hr 27min
  • IMDB Rating: 8/10

I Am Duran

I Am Duran Boxing

Roberto Duran is one of the most entertaining, trailblazing fighters of all time. The Panamanian’s story spans the length of decades, with the height of his success leading to becoming one of the firestarters for Panama’s revolution. The documentary features interviews from Mike Tyson, Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Sugar Ray Leonard, and many others.

  • Director: Mat Hodgson
  • Run Time: 1hr 29min
  • IMDB Rating: 7.3/10

Unforgivable Blackness

Unforgivable Blackness Documentary

Episode 10 in Ken Burns’s legendary American Lives collection, Unforgivable Blackness tells about the rise and fall of Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion. Johnson was born to parents who were former slaves, and the height of his career coincided with the period of Jim Crow. It’s a story about a man’s success and his relationship with some of America’s darkest history.

  • Director:  Ken Burns
  • Run Time: 3hr 40min
  • IMDB Rating: 8.3/10

What’s My Name

What's My Name

Winner of the 2019 Sports Emmy Winner for Outstanding Long Documentary, What’s My Name is a tale of the long life of Muhammad Ali. Director Antoine Fuqua, and executive producers Lebron James and Maverick Carter, focus on conveying the legacy Ali had in boxing and as a global citizen. The two-part documentary can be found on HBO, and it features previously never-before-seen footage and audio of the late Ali.

  • Director: Antoine Fuqua
  • Run Time: 2hr 45min
  • IMDB Rating: 8.5/10

T-Rex

T-Rex Claressa Shields

While Flint, Michigan is been known for its ongoing water crisis in recent years, there’s another reason to turn attention to the city. T-Rex follows star female boxer, Claressa Shields, in her attempt to achieve gold again in the 2016 Rio Olympics — she won gold at the 2012 Olympics at the age of 17. The documentary retells Claressa’s upbringing and touches on themes of race, class, and gender bias.

  • Director: Drea Cooper, Zackary Canepari
  • Run Time: 1hr 29min
  • IMDB Rating: 7.3/10

Cradle of Champions

Cradle of Champions Documentary

Cradle of Champions follows three young aspiring boxers—Titus Williams, James Wilkins, and Nisa Rodriguez — on a three-month journey through the New York Daily News Golden Gloves, the most iconic amateur boxing tournament in the world. The documentary shines a light on the innocence of amateur boxing before the big money and glamour, as well as what the sport represents for individuals who are looking for a way out of their difficult upbringings.

  • Director:  Bartle Bull
  • Run Time: 1hr 40min
  • IMDB Rating: 6.4/10

Editors' Recommendations