Next Friday, on June 16, Netflix will unveil a brand new film called CounterPunch, a documentary that examines the current state of boxing in America from the perspective of three fighters: Christopher “Lil B-Hop” Colbert, an up and coming prospect; Cam F. Awesome, a career amatuer; and former world titlist Peter ‘Kid Chocolate’ Quillin.
The film was directed by Jay Bulger, himself a former amateur boxer, who documents the true stories of these three fighters who are each following their own paths, but are all on the same road that is boxing.
“I was an amateur boxer. Boxing is my passion,” said Bulger. Many years after hanging up the gloves, I set out to capture the state of boxing in America, following three boxers, in three different chapters of a boxing career. When combined, I hope they provide a complete picture of the sport today.”
Being in the privileged position that I am, I was granted early screening access to the film to get my thoughts (with the obvious hope that I would like the film and write this piece. And wouldn’t you know it, here we are).
The truth is, it really is a good film for any boxing fan out there. It’s certainly authentic - covering the good, the bad, and the ugly of the sport - and it covers enough of a period of time that we can witness the personal growth and development of its protagonists. The film is also features commentary from notable boxing insiders, including Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya, Claressa Shields, Paulie Malignaggi, Steve Kim, and others.
As far as context, the theme of the documentary covers the systematic problems at all levels within the world of professional and amateur boxing. This concept will certainly be of interest to anyone who is a fan of boxing, and quite frankly, it’s something that desperately needs to be brought into the light.
But to be completely honest, in watching the film I got the impression that Floyd Mayweather and Al Haymon were made out to be the main antagonists of the sport - oft credited with ushering in a this “new” era of a business-first approach to boxing, much to the detriment of the pride and glory boxing once stood for.
Realistically, though, boxing’s biggest problem is that it lacks a central governing body that can regulate it — something the film does cover, albeit much too briefly for my taste as I viewed that as the real crux of their argument and sentiment. Boxing has had serious problems before Mayweather and Haymon came along, and boxing will have serious problems long after they’ve gone — and it has little to do with Mayweather’s business model or influence.
That, though, is where my criticism of the film begins and ends. The real draw here are the fighter’s stories — something the documentary absolutely nails in compelling fashion.
We follow Cam F. Awesome, a career amateur super heavyweight who opts to pass up the opportunities and money of the professional ranks so that he can chase his Olympic dreams. He works hard, barely earns enough to support himself, but loves what he’s doing and the reasons he does it.
We follow Chris “Lil B-Hop” Colbert, a 20-year-old featherweight out of Brooklyn who now has six professional fights under his belt. Colbert has tremendous talent, but it takes a noticeable growth in maturity for him to realize what it really takes to be a successful professional fighter.
And finally we follow Peter Quillin, starting with his decision to voluntarily drop his world title under the advice of manger Al Haymon. Quillin took a lot of heat for that decision, but we watch him as he explains his thought process and attempts to regain a championship belt. And like all things in real life, it doesn’t always come with a happy ending, like Quillin ultimately getting blitzed by Danny Jacobs with the WBA title on the line.
All in all this is a very good documentary, and definitely worth a watch. CounterPunch premiers next Friday on Netflix with it’s world premier set for the Los Angeles Film Festival, Thursday, June 15. Check it out!