Boxing may barely register these days on the American sports radar. But it remains prime ground for dramatic story telling. Fans have turned away from the sport because of the corruption that has seemingly wrecked it. But then the public embraces the sport -- the corruption, the suffering and the triumph -- when it is presented by Hollywood.
It is a strange dichotomy -- this sport that has dropped off the table of the American sports menu is now the subject of not only one of the most heralded films of the year but also a television drama as well.
"The Fighter" is a film directed by David O. Russell and starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale that has received numerous honors already and will likely take home some of the coveted Oscar awards. It is the story of "Irish" Micky Ward, a New England fighter who fought a dysfunctional family and struggles in the ring until he emerged as a top contender.
"Lights Out," is a new TV series on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX with many of the same components that make "The Fighter" such a compelling story -- suffering, corruption and class -- though after two episodes, there doesn't seem to be much room for triumph, at least not yet.
In "Lights Out," Patrick Leary is a retired former heavyweight champion who is thinking about a comeback because the good life he built for himself is falling apart from bad business deals. But he suffered from considerable damage when he fought and is in the beginning stages of winding up punch drunk. He is being wooed to comeback for a rematch with his last opponent -- a fight Leary lost in a split decision but believes he won.
For fans of "The Wire," there are some familiar acting faces in "Lights Out." Also in the show is veteran actor Stacy Keach as Leary's father and former trainer. Keach played a club fighter in the great John Huston boxing film, "Fat City."
You see those words often in print -- "the great boxing film" -- because the sport has created some great works, and, without a doubt, the greatest sports movies of all time. Story tellers have gone to the boxing well so many times compared to baseball, football or any other sport, that arguably boxing movies are in a class of their own.
As heavyweight champion Sonny Liston once said, "A boxing match is like a cowboy movie. There's got to be good guys and there's got to be bad guys. That's what people pay for -- to see the bad guys get beat."
People have been paying to see "The Fighter." They have paid to see "Million Dollar Baby" and "Cinderella Man" in recent years. Many consider "Raging Bull" the greatest film of the 1980s. And the entire country was caught up in "Rocky" in 1976.
The list of boxing films is long. My two favorites that I would recommend are "The Set Up" with Robert Ryan, and "The Harder They Fall," starring Humphrey Bogart.
Boxing has been a deep well for Hollywood and will likely remain so, even as the sport itself runs dry.
Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at email@example.com.