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'The Kings' Review: Showtime's New Documentary About the Four Kings of 80's Boxing is Excellent

By Stephen Douglas
'The Kings' artwork.
'The Kings' artwork. / Showtime.
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Showtime will debut its new boxing documentary series,The Kings, on Sunday, June 6 at 8 p.m. The documentary takes a look at the four kings of 80's boxing, Hall of Fame pugilists Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler, and Roberto Duran. I was lucky enough to screen the documentary and can't say enough about how good it is.

Leonard, Hearns, Hagler and Duran ruled the era that bridged the gap between Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson and each was able to tell their own story. There's Leonard's rise to the Olympic gold and hesitancy to even go pro, Hearns boxing his way out of inner city Detroit but never really leaving, Duran fighting for an entire country and Hagler constantly chasing the money, respect and love that eluded him most of his career.

The Kings does a great job putting together new and old interviews with footage and images to clearly tell the story of these four fighters who shared the ring with each other for some incredible fights. Directed by Mat Whitecross, there is not a wasted shot in the entire four hours. While there are interviews with the fighters and those who were there (including Bob Arum, Jackie Kallen, Teddy Atlas and Jerry Izenberg) there are no talking heads. Every second of screen time is filled with images from the era. Fight footage is plentiful and interspersed with incredible still images where sweat flies as punches land.

Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard.
Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard. / CBS Corporation

Watching this, you not only wish you had been there to see these fights, but it would have been just as incredible to observe these guys in the Internet era. Each one had a great personality and their own specific look.

Having been too young to see these guys live, but old enough to hear their names referenced, the fight footage was incredible. Hearns' highlights especially jumped off the screen. Even among these other three legends, his power looked insane.

Every boxer trope you can imagine was either invented or lived by these fighters. There are training montages, struggles with women, money and drugs and powerful stories of redemption. There were at least a dozen "retirements" between them. Hearns had a swimming pool shaped like a boxing glove and bought a monkey and those things are just mentioned in passing. These guys literally did it all.

You're transported right back to the 80's as the film looks not just at the fighters, but the outside world they're fighting in and for. From the rise of Ronald Reagan (and the original "Make America Great Again") to the fall of Manuel Noriega. All three American fighters show up in the Oval Office with Reagan while the U.S. military raided Duran's home off a tip he was hiding Noriega there.

The series will air over four Sundays, but feels like a bingeable prestige TV drama. It won't create the memes of The Last Dance, but it's tighter, more densely packed and just a better sports movie with less massaging of the facts.

THE KINGS, a four-part documentary series, premieres on Sunday, June 6, at 8 p.m. ET/PT  on SHOWTIME with new episodes to follow every Sunday.  All four episodes will be available on all Showtime On Demand platforms on the day of premiere.  

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