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Review: Showtime’s “Ringside” documentary a compelling look at boxing stories not often told

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Showtime’s gripping documentary tells the tale of two fighters from the Southside of Chicago.

2015 Throne Boxing Fight Night Photo by Jerritt Clark/WireImage

Last month I posted a story on how Showtime Sports would be releasing a new boxing documentary Ringside, which premiered on the network this past Friday. And in all honesty, I’d forgotten all about it until I just came across a rerun on the channel lineup and decided to give it a watch — and boy am I glad I did! I’m usually pretty hard on boxing films, and it’s been a good minute since I’ve last posted a movie review, but this one is completely worthy of it.

The documentary follows the lives of two fighters from the Southside of Chicago, Kenneth Sims Jr. and Destyne Butler Jr., both of whom were incredibly talented boxers at a young age. Both fighters had big boxing dreams, notably to make it to the Olympics, but neither were able to realize those goals due to vastly different circumstances.

For Sims, he suffered a heartbreaking loss at the qualifiers after the film covers years of his hard work and sacrifices. Butler, however, would make some poor decisions for which he suffered some harsh consequences, spending his prime years of development in jail cell instead of the gym.

But what really makes this documentary stand out among others is the long-arching time period it covers, allowing viewers to really immerse themselves into their respective worlds and bond with the fighters’ genuine desire to simply make a better life for themselves and their loved ones. And amidst the backdrop of a violently wild Chicago scene, you very much want to see both of these young men succeed, as it’s almost a literal fight for survival.

When Butler finally gets out of jail at 21 years old, he learns quick and fast that his years of push-ups in a cell weren’t enough to keep his skills and conditioning intact, despite his muscular physique. Butler still makes commitment to rededicate his life to boxing knowing that it’s his one ticket out of his circumstances. With that renewed focus and support, he ends up winning a Golden Gloves tournament before turning professional. Butler currently has a 9-0 (5 KOs) professional record.

Sims, on the other hand, currently sports a 14-2-1 (5 KOs) record. He may not have yet made it to the pinnacle of the sport, but at age 26 and backed by promoter Gary Shaw, he still has time. Either way, it’s clear that Sims has done very well for himself, and we get to see him live out his dreams and upgrade his lifestyle while still giving back to his community.

Trust me when I tell you I wouldn’t bother writing this if I didn’t think this documentary was well worth your time. The footage, interviews, and storytelling is really quite compelling — all aided by a rawness that’s more captivating than fiction.