10 Awesome Fights in Boxing Movie History

10 Awesome Fights in Boxing Movie History

Robert De Niro gets in Edgar Ramirez’s corner in the new boxing movie Hands of Stone, a biopic about all-time great Panamanian fighter Roberto Duran, who rose from poverty to become a world champion in four different weight classes — and famously threw in the towel (by saying “No Mas”) vs. Sugar Ray Leonard in one of the sport’s legendary bouts. It’s the first of two reality-based year-end boxing films, to be followed this November by Bleed For This starring Miles Teller. It remains to be seen if either has a legitimate shot at entering the pantheon of boxing-movie classics — or, just as important, if they have the sweet-science skills to join this, our collection of cinema’s finest in-ring showdowns.

Raging Bull (1980) – Jake La Motta vs. Sugar Ray Robinson

In the best boxing film ever made, director Martin Scorsese delivered the most accomplished and awesome fight footage ever captured in a dramatic film, highlighted by its protagonist Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro, in an Oscar-winning performance) facing off for the third and final time against champ Sugar Ray Robinson — a sequence of self-destruction marked by blinding flashbulbs and close-ups of gloves brutalizing faces and sending blood flying through the air.

Rocky (1976) – Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed

Sylvester Stallone’s Oscar winner is arguably the most beloved underdog-makes-good sports movie of the modern era. It climaxes with Stallone’s blue-collar hero Rocky Balboa facing off against Carl Weathers’ cocky heavyweight champ Apollo Creed in a bout that not only solidifies the Philly hero’s never-give-up spirit, but also ably sets the stage for the series’ numerous sequels.

Girlfight (2000) – Diana Guzman vs. Adrian Sturges

Michelle Rodriguez’s breakout role came in director Karyn Kusama’s 2000 indie hit, in which she plays a young inner-city woman who finds a new outlet for her combative impulses in the ring. In a finale against her boyfriend (played by Santiago Douglas), Rodriguez exhibits the sort of steely toughness that would make her such a perfect fit for roles in The Fast and Furious and Avatar franchises.

Ali (2001) – Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman

Will Smith might not really resemble Muhammad Ali, but he nonetheless impressively embodies the Greatest Of All Time in Michael Mann’s biopic. While Ali’s triumph (as Cassius Clay) over Sonny Liston serves as a bravura opening salvo, the film peaks during its stunningly faithful re-creation of Ali’s underdog win over the imposing George Foreman in 1974’s “Rumble in the Jungle.”

Million Dollar Baby (2004) – Mary Margaret “Maggie” Fitzgerald vs. Billie “The Blue Bear” Osterman

Clint Eastwood’s 2004 drama about a young female fighter (Hilary Swank) who teams up with a crotchety trainer (Eastwood) earned four Oscars (for Best Picture, Director, Actress, and Supporting Actor for Morgan Freeman). Its most memorable fight pits Swank’s Maggie against this fearsome opponent — the brutal contest’s conclusion has been edited out of the above clip to avoid spoilers.

The Fighter (2010) – Mickey Ward vs. Shea Neary

Taking a page from Muhammad Ali’s strategy book, Mark Wahlberg’s Mickey Ward successfully employs a rope-a-dope approach in David O. Russell’s rousing boxing saga, which earned Christian Bale a Best Supporting Actor Oscar as Ward’s brother and trainer Dicky, who’s waging his own battle against crack addiction.

Diggstown (1992) – Honey Roy Palmer vs. Hammerhead Hagan

James Woods and Louis Gossett Jr. are equally great in this wildly underrated 1992 film, about a con man (Woods) who convinces a local kingpin (Bruce Dern) to accept an absurd bet ]that Woods’ long-retired fighter Honey Roy Palmer (Gossett) can beat any ten fighters in a 24-hour stretch. The best of these contests is Palmer’s ninth, against the titanic Hammerhead Hagan — the only man who ever beat Palmer when he was a pro — which ends in stirring (and hilarious) towel-tossing fashion.

The Hurricane (1999) – Rubin “Hurricane” Carter vs. Joey Cooper

Norman Jewison’s biopic about middleweight Rubin “Hurricane” Carter invariably focuses on his subject’s incarceration and prison stretch for a triple-homicide conviction. Before that takes place, however, the film firmly establishes Carter’s pugilistic prowess, especially in this early fight against Joey Cooper that shows off star Denzel Washington’s fearsome force-of-personality.

Creed (2015) – Adonis Creed vs. Leo “The Lion” Sporino

Ryan Coogler’s continuation of the Rocky franchise earned its co-star Sylvester Stallone an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and proved the leading-man stature of star Michael. B. Jordan. Its apex is Jordan’s first fight as Apollo Creed’s son Adonis, which the director — in a virtuoso turn — shoots in one thrilling continuous take.

Rocky IV (1985) – Rocky Balboa vs. Ivan Drago

It may be the single most unrealistic fight in boxing movie history — Stallone’s Rocky and Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago suffer more blows to the head than most fighters do during an entire career. Nonetheless, there’s something gloriously cartoonish about their politically charged clash and Stallone’s exaltation of All-American toughness.

(His post-match speech about geopolitical peace is also the tops)