Mike Tyson and “vulnerability” are two words that I had never thought I would compile into a single sentence. Alongside boxing legends Evander Holyfield and Bernard Hopkins, Tyson tells his story of rags-to-riches-to-rags in a clean assessment of the allure, gifts and unsightliness of professional boxing. Joining the fray are trainers, sports journalists and celebrities – 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige, Mark Wahlberg to name a few – to add an outside-looking-in aspect of the sport. Written and directed by Bert Marcus, Champs deviates from the average boxing documentary in that it dives head first into the darker side of what is known as one of the most unforgiving sports in the land of the free.
The American Dream is the national ethos of America that has captured the attention of waves of people of an assortment of nationalities since our country’s conception. Born into poverty, the legendary trio – Tyson, Holyfield and Hopkins, – realized early on in their youth that boxing was a means to a greater end. However…
“Have you seen my bank account lately?” – Mike Tyson, Champs.
At the peak of Mike Tyson’s career, he boasted a $300 million dollar net worth – and in 2003 Tyson filed for bankruptcy, citing a $27 million dollar debt. Holyfield garnered an estimated $230 million throughout his career, however, because of his obnoxious appetite for luxury, all of that money quickly disappeared. Tyson’s and Holyfield’s financial crises, as charted in Champs, are archetypes for the parasitic hold the unregulated sport of boxing purposely maintains over its champions, middle-class performers and rookies alike.
Furthermore, the financial aspect of a boxer’s life is but one of the many damaged pieces that complete a highly disorganized and mangled puzzle. Unlike other major sports, boxing lacks unions, regulations and resources to ensure that it’s competitors are financially and medically healthy. Statistics even estimate a whopping 90% of boxers sustain some form of brain injury during their career! Champs beams an unpleasant light on the workings of those who are milking the proverbial cash-cow that is the top 1% of boxers.
Not a fan of boxing? That’s acceptable, nor am I. However, Champs is not a documentary that caters solely to fans of boxing. Bert Marcus makes a point of minifying the legendary grandeur of the highly acclaimed trio – because, let’s face it, all three are in every sense of the word “legends” and genetic freaks – in a manner that is humanizing and enormously more digestible to the layperson. Champs dissects the allure of the sport, and more importantly, the manner in which it violently exploits the individuals that sustain the sports popularity. Bert Marcus, with keen intellect and whimsical creativity, illuminates a long ignored “issue” – that’s putting it lightly – in a sport that has left its mark on the fabric of our country’s history.