This documentary looks at the lives and careers of three of the greatest boxing champions in the world; Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, and Bernard Hopkins. From tough childhoods, each man made their way in the boxing world through determination and skill. Unfortunately, each man also faced incredible defeat both in and out of the ring, as the sudden rise to fame left them without the proper tools to manage their celebrity.
Champs isn’t just a film about boxing, or the boxers who managed to become some of the most famous names in the game, it also spends a great deal of time looking at the ways in which the boxing world has been built on the backs of the less privileged. This is also a sport that is barely regulated, and offers little support to the men and women who literally risk their lives when they step into the ring.
Being a fan of boxing certainly helps with the middle third of the film, as the movie looks at the rise of each boxer profiled. Even for those who don’t consider themselves fans, it’s fascinating to watch Tyson, Hopkins, and Holyfield fight. The speed and power that each man has is almost unbelievable, and although you may not enjoy the sport they excel at, it’s hard to deny that they have a skill few others possess.
Again, the film isn’t entirely about their careers in the ring, and that’s really why it becomes so entertaining and touching. Viewers can see how boxing is a sport that offers the ‘American Dream’ to people, but typically those who come from poverty. As one interviewee points out “No kid with money, fights.” While the boxing world may not take advantage of troubled youth, it seems impossible to ignore that almost all the fighters find themselves being used at some point later in their careers.
Since their lives began in poverty, and usually with a lack of education, there’s nobody there to teach them the business aspect of the sport. They’re taught to fight and win, not how to manage the huge amounts of money they accumulate. In the final third of the film, we see the impact this lack of education has, and how it has changed the way that Holyfield, Tyson, and Hopkins now deal with their lives, as they try to prevent the same thing from happening to young boxers.