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The 6 Best Boxing Documentaries to Watch in 2021

Boxing is having a moment right now. From highly anticipated heavyweight bouts to exhibitions of old rivals to the insanely hyped celeb boxing, boxing fans new and old alike 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 all those moments come with great and inspiring stories filled with larger-than-life knockouts by larger-than-life men and women. It would take all day to find the best boxing documentaries on streaming platforms, but this list should be a good starting point. By watching these eye-opening docs, 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

A still from the documentary "When We Were Kings."

Winner of the 1996 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, When We Were Kings is a retelling of the iconic Rumble in the Jungle heavyweight bout between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali in 1974. It was one of the best boxing matches in history. Director Leon Gast worked for 22 years to secure enough funding to finish the documentary, and when it was finally done, it received much 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: 1 hour, 27 minutes
  • IMDB Rating: 8.0

I Am Duran

The thumbnail for the official trailer of "I Am Duran."

Roberto Duran is one of the most entertaining, trailblazing fighters of all time. The Panamanian’s story spans 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: 1 hr, 24 minutes
  • IMDB Rating: 7.2

Unforgivable Blackness

The "Unforgivable Blackness" on PBS.

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

  • Director:  Ken Burns
  • Run Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes (part 1), 1 hr, 42 minutes (part 2)
  • IMDB Rating: 8.3

What’s My Name

"What's My Name" on HBO.

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 Ali’s legacy 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 heavyweight champion.

  • Director: Antoine Fuqua
  • Run Time: 1 hour, 23 minutes (part 1), 1 hr, 19 minutes (part 2)
  • IMDB Rating: 8.5

T-Rex

A still from the documentary "T-Rex."

While Flint, Michigan, is known for its water crisis of recent years, there’s another reason to turn attention to the city. T-Rex follows a 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: 1 hour, 29 minutes
  • IMDB Rating: 7.3

Cradle of Champions

The poster of "Cradle of Champions."

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 upbringing.

  • Director:  Bartle Bull
  • Run Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes
  • IMDB Rating: 6.4

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