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Episodes Three and Four of “The Kings” Bring a Fitting End to the Docuseries

showtime the kings review

Director Mat Whitecross’ final two episodes of the landmark boxing docuseries “The Kings” are even more riveting than the first two episodes of this Showtime docuseries. The highlights included expert commentators such as Bonnie Greer, Steve Farhood, Thomas Hauser and the undisputed best of the group, Teddy Atlas. The single best part of the final two episodes was looking at the intricacies of the makeup of Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard. The politics and urban despair of each greats’ childhood was masterfully displayed by Whitecross’ filmmaking.

Episode three drew a tremendous picture of what the four greats had to go through growing up in less than stellar environments. Leonard talked about eating food out of garbage cans. Hearns and Hagler both grew up in cities that were nearly destroyed due to destructive riots in their Detroit and Newark hometowns. Finally, Duran’s love of Panama fueled his hated of the United States. Especially after the CIA allegedly murdered his father figure and leader of Panama, Omar Torrijos. The political climate of 1980’s America and the corrupt regime of Ronald Reagan continued to be outlined through incredible archival footage. Just brilliant filmmaking.

Episode three also captured the big fight atmosphere of the Hagler-Duran, Hearns-Duran and Hagler-Hearns fights. Leonard was forced to retire in November of 1981 due to a detached retina suffered at the hands of Hearns and was relegated to watching from the sidelines. He also revealed that during his forced sabbatical from boxing he became addicted to both cocaine and alcohol and also physically abused his wife Juanita on more than one occasion. He admitted that those were the darkest days of his life. However, while at ringside for both the epic Hagler-Hearns fight and Hagler’s struggle against John Mugabi, Leonard realized that Hagler was primed to be beaten.

Episode four was a fitting end to the docuseries. The first half hour was the single greatest insight ever into the Hagler-Leonard fight. The buildup and controversial post fight aftermath was wonderfully thorough and covered completely. It also showed the character of Hagler. Despite several lucrative offers, Hagler not one time ever considered making a comeback. The other three kings, however, made ill advised comeback after comeback.

Whitecross in part four also showed the hypocrisy of Reagan’s war on drugs. Reagan was the same man who oversaw the allowance of crack distribution throughout every major urban area in the United States. Whitecross’ visual accounts of the crack epidemic in Hearns’ Detroit hometown mirrored what was going on at the same time in my hometown of New York City. I was 21 at the time of the Hearns-Leonard rematch and both Harlem and the South Bronx mirrored Saigon after the end of the Vietnam War.

Teddy Atlas’ words at the end of episode four about how boxers are born and made are, in my opinion, the greatest words ever expressed about boxers. Words cannot describe the impact Atlas had on this entire series as the best commentator amongst an all star cast of commentators. A marvelous ending to a marvelous series.

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