Fights Camera Action

 By Chris Strait

When Boxing returns to Florentine Gardens in Hollywood, CA for the second time in two months, on Thursday, September 20, 2012, it is continuing a great tradition. A tradition of which many people, even hardcore fight fans, do not know the history. We all know of the legendary Rocky series, as well as star-studded films like Cinderella Man, Million Dollar Baby, and The Fighter. However, did you know that boxing is by far the most covered sport in the movies? Did you know the tradition goes back as far as movies have existed?

One of the very first 5-minute motion pictures released to the public was a boxing demonstration being given my Jim Corbett, the first gloved heavyweight champion of the world. That started a love affair between film and prizefighting that has lasted nearly 120 years. In fact, a few years later, Los Angeles was where the heavyweight champion called home.

 

Hundreds of actors every day work in Burbank, California movie and television studios, never knowing that in that very same town, “Great White Hope” Jim Jeffries raised alfalfa in his retirement years. It was from that retirement that he was drawn out, to unsuccessfully challenge the great Jack Johnson. Jeffries lived the majority of his life in Southern California, and is buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery. Of course, the movies were just a coincidence then, as Hollywood had not yet become ground zero for that activity.

 

Fast Forward to the 1930’s and clown prince of the heavyweight division Max Baer. Today he is more known as the guy who killed two men in the ring, told jokes during fights, and lost to the “Cinderella Man” James Braddock. But in Hollywood, he was known as the star of “The Prizefighter and the Lady”, the filming of which is how Baer spent his championship reign, rather than training in the gym. Heck, Baer might even be more well known among entertainment buffs, as being the father of the actor who portrayed “Jethro Bodine” on ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’.

 

Paul Newman’s breakout role came when he was cast as Rocky Graziano in “Somebody Up There Likes Me”. It was a role that was originally intended for James Dean, prior to his death. Anthony Quinn’s Mountain Rivera in “Requiem for a Heavyweight” is considered by many to be the greatest performance ever in a boxing movie. Although, some would say Christian Bale came very close recently, in “The Fighter”.

 

Many Hollywood actors, singers, and producers have also gotten into the act on the business side. Al Jolson, who in his heyday was dubbed “The World’s Greatest Entertainer,” was a big fight fan and a regular at Los Angeles boxing shows. In 1936, Jolson and his partners purchased the contract to become Henry Armstrong’s managers. Jolson was instrumental in Armstrong’s rise from local club fighter to one of the greatest fighters in boxing history.

 

Sylvester Stallone had a piece of an unbeaten heavyweight in the 1980s, Lee Canalito. After boxer Yakubu Amidu (28-3-1) moved to Los Angeles from Ghana, his managers became Swingers and Wedding Crashers star Vince Vaughan. Sam Simon, producer of such hits as Taxi, Drew Carey, and the Simpsons, has managed a few fighters, including former heavyweight champ Lamon Brewster. Denzel Washington also searched for the next great heavyweight Champion when he managed Damian “Bolo” Wills.

 

While the Avalon Ballroom and the Henry Fonda Theater played occasional host in recent times, most of Hollywood spent the 80’s and 90’s trucking south to Inglewood, to attend the weekly Monday night shows at The Great Western Forum. The Godfather, Misery, and Brian’s Song star James Caan was a boxing manager and promoter in the 1980s. One of his boxers was a local heavyweight contender named Mike “The Bounty” Hunter who fought at the Forum and beat the likes of Oliver McCall, Tyrell Biggs, and Pinkon Thomas. Hunter’s son, Michael Hunter, Jr., represented the United States in the heavyweight division of the recently completed 2012 London Olympics.

 

And just recently, what could be one of the richest (but short lived) partnerships in the history of boxing was formed with rapper 50 Cent’s foray into boxing promotion. TMT (The Money Team) Promotions, a venture with (or maybe without) Floyd Mayweather is now rumored to be bringing Manny Pacquiao into the mix as well. We will have to wait and see if TMT is the next combination of boxing and the entertainment world.

 

The days of weekly boxing shows in Hollywood may be permanently behind us, but the days of the marriage between Hollywood and Boxing has only gotten stronger. It continues in great tradition, in one of the most historic venues in the area. The Hollywood Fight Night series at Florentine Gardens is not about star power. It is designed to develop up-and-coming fighters with a touch of the old school boxing feel from yesteryear. Of course, given the location and proximity, the bright lights are shining on these fighters already.

 

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

 

HOLLYWOOD FIGHT NIGHT

Featuring top ranked fighters:

• Zachary Wohlman
• Terrell Williams
• Neil Arellano
• David Clark
• Carlos Rodriguez
• Louis Rose
• Javier Albonica

Beasts from the East:

• Vahe Saruhanyan
• Alexander Filichkin
• Vyacheslav Shabransky

Special Female Attraction:

Holly Lawson
vs.
Sarah Kuhn

• Doors open 7pm
• 18 and over
• All Bouts Subject to Change

Florentine Gardens
5951 Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood, CA 90028