Last night saw the passing of a boxing legend, Smokin’ Joe Frazier at the age of 67. Frazier’s story, like so many other boxing stories, was a remarkable one. Raised on a farm, he spent seven years beating on a homemade heavy bag hanging from an oak tree. He went on to win Olympic gold medals and heavyweight championships, becoming one of the most iconic figures in a sport filled with icons.

His career, like many others, was filled with vitriol and controversy, but upon news of his terminal struggle with liver cancer only a few days ago, the public and his contemporaries were quick to set aside their criticisms and differences in honoring this boxing legend.

In the wake of Smokin’ Joe’s passing, we offer up eight film fighters who's fictional careers weren't as rich and interesting as Frazier's.


Not going for subtlety here, folks. Rocky is one of the most beloved characters, not just in boxing movies, not just in American film, but possibly in American culture. As such, he gets the first spot on this list. If you don’t know why, please run, don’t walk to the video store (if one still exists by the time you read this) and rent Rocky I-IV.

The man trains by chopping wood and punching meat. He’s tenderizing as he trains! Also, he ended communism in Rocky IV, so we all owe him a pretty big debt of gratitude.

Jake LaMotta

Raging Bull's Jake LaMotta is not a likeable character, but he sure is an enthralling one. His rage, coupled with his complex and flawed relationships with his own family, makes him a ticking time bomb who lives up to the title of the film. Based on the bio of Jake La Motta (notice the space), the film was widely praised, though the violent content served as something of a turn-off for many moviegoers.

Beyond that, Robert De Niro’s weight gain for this film remains the gold standard for physical transformations for a role (besides Fat Mac from Always Sunny, of course).

Micky Ward

He’s the on fighting here. Not you, not you, and not you!

On the heels of awards season, David O. Russell’s The Fighter, a study of a Boston boxer with more baggage than a 747, won audiences over due to the eminently believable performance from Mark Wahlberg, who adopts the Boston accent and punch-drunk boxer persona with disarming ease. It’s almost like he’s from Boston or something. Beyond the nuance, Ward embodies the underdog persona in a way that we can’t help but love. The fact that it’s one of Mark Wahlberg’s few believable roles just sweetens the deal.

Ivan Drago

One of only a few “bad guys” on this list, it’s impossible not to like him as the ultimate antagonist. He’s cold, foreign, and has every advantage that Rocky Balboa doesn’t. We don’t want him to win when it comes time to fight our guy, but, if in 1990, in an alternate reality, they had unleashed Rocky V: Drago’s Story, you would probably have watched that before any of these other classic films.

He is a complete caricature, but what’s wrong with that? He drops classic lines like, “If he dies, he dies,” and “I will break you.”

Nuanced characters are overrated anyway. Give me giant ones with flattops.

Maggie Fitzgerald

We’re equal-opportunity here at SJ, and while a number of films have been made about female boxers, none resonate as real or moving the way that Million Dollar Baby did. Similar to Mickey Ward, Maggie was a disadvantaged Irish fighter who was held back by her family, but this story doesn’t have such a happy ending. The story takes a pretty crazy turn mid-way through, leaving us to wonder what could have been.

The great thing about boxing movies is that, unlike other sports films, they’re just as likely to have a sad ending as a happy one. This film is clearly the former, but no less a classic a similar film with a happy end.

Mickey O’Neil

Finally, a character who doesn’t put us through the emotional ringer. Serving largely as comic relief in Snatch (but which character doesn’t?), Mickey quickly becomes an instrument of vengeance and the ultimate wild card. O’Neil serves as a representation of the uncertainty the promoters on both sides must face in the crooked world of unlicensed boxing.

He’s an unintelligible boxing gypsy that can knock anyone out with one punch. And he’s my favorite fighter on this list.

Hurricane Carter

The remarkable aspect of so many boxing films is that they are based on true stories that compel audiences to develop allegiances to characters that, generally, aren’t exactly great human beings. Such is the case with The Hurricane, a study of Rubin Carter, a boxer who was originally made famous in a Bob Dylan song in which spoke out against Carter’s incarceration for a triple murder.

Sure, the story follows Carter more out of the ring and during his legal struggles than it does during his boxing career, but that’s only because Carter’s plight (portrayed brilliantly by Denzel Washington) in the courtroom outshines his fights in the ring.

James Roper

Now HERE’S a caricature. The Great White Hype exists as a satire of the world of boxing, playing up all the stereotypes depicted not only in the actual world of boxing, but in boxing films as well. The sleazy promoter, the cocky champ, and the upstart Irish underdog are all presented through the lens of a documentary filmmaker. While so many films are quick to show all boxers as salt of the earth scrapsters, this film and this character (played with no shortage of ham by Damon Wayans) present us with a character contemporary boxing fans are all too familiar with: the entitled prima donna.

We’d be rooting against him the whole time if every other character in the film wasn’t so shitty.

If Joe Frazier were here, he'd want you to click on that picture of Christina Hendricks....

Click here for 9 ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’ Plots That Actually HappenedCheck out 36 Bounce-Tastic Christina Hendricks Gifs

Check out these 17 Bounce-Tastic Sofia Vergara GifsClick here for 9 Most Menacing Moustachioed Villains

Check out The Least Sexy Photo of Heidi Klum Ever TakenTake a look at these 10 Classic Topless Scenes