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Top 10 Boxing Documentaries of All Time

Best Boxing documentary

Boxing—one of the most orthodox and legacy-bearing sports on earth—has turned out to tend toward giving birth to the most motivational and mental documentary ever made.

These are movies from real emotional and deep heart connection of what it means to fight, the lives of champions, the intensity of training, and the legendary matches which defined the sport.

But with the best boxing documentaries, you also get to learn more about the fighter, where he comes from, his background, and personality.

For enthusiasts and newcomers alike, this curated list highlights the best boxing documentaries that bring the world of boxing to life.

Boxing Documentary

"When We Were Kings" (1996)



Starting our list with an unforgettable story: the 1974 heavyweight championship bout in Zaire, between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. This fight was known famously as "The Rumble in the Jungle," captured in this Oscar-winning documentary.

When We Were Kings not only shows highlights of one of the greatest boxing matches but also the deep cultural context that would define an era.

Named Best Documentary Feature by the Academy Awards, it is truly extraordinary not only for the historical insight and pulsating footage but for the profound power it holds in connecting with and moving its audience—a very inspiring event not to be missed by any sports fan or history aficionado!

The charisma, strategy, and even philosophical outlook at life by Ali turn this movie into an insight view of a champion outside the ring.

The documentary is a must-watch film in case one seeks the point where sports, history, and social issues converge.

When We Were Kings (1996)

"The Trials of Muhammad Ali" (2013)



  • IMDb - 7.2/10

Next in line on our boxing documentaries list is an even more interesting view of a part of Muhammad Ali's life, this time with a focus on the part when he converted to Islam and refused to serve in the Vietnam War, which all led to a bunch of lawsuits.

Unlike many documentaries, "The Trials of Muhammad Ali" is one that actually looks at the battles the fighter fought outside the ring. Some would give a viewer an idea of his personal courage, the principles for which he paid a price, and some—about his way of life and support of oppressed members of the population. It is critical in understanding the human being behind the myth and the influence he made on sports and society.

This was one of the best boxing documentaries that one will have seen—motivational sports movies for not just a fan, but only a fan of boxing.

The Trials of Muhammad Ali

"Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson" (2004)


  • Ken Burns


  • IMDb - 8.3/10

Directed by Ken Burns, this documentary tells the extraordinary story of Jack Johnson, boxing's first African American heavyweight world champion.

As brought to vivid life by his award-winning biographer Geoffrey C. Ward, here is the real Jack Johnson—far more vivid and provocative than any legend that has ever surrounded him.

Johnson had fought his way from relative obscurity to the top of the heavyweight ranks and, in 1908, won the greatest prize in American sports—one that had always been the preserve of white boxers.

A time when America was everything for the whites, he took orders from nobody and resolved to live as colour did not exist. As the former case was the most dramatic event that ended in his destruction, it is a way to make the federal government concentrate all their forces on him, and he had to spend one year in prison and seven in exile.

As noted by Ward, Johnson would have fallen into the category of being an arrogant, amoral, dark menace, and danger to the natural order of the state, considered a perpetual danger to whites and blacks alike. It's a story that expresses sports accomplishment but absolutely struggle against racism and living life without any regrets.

"No Más" (2013)



  • IMDb - 7.1/10

The bout is part of the ESPN 30 for 30 series "No Más," which highlights one of the most infamous fights of the sport: the return bout in 1980 between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran.

Describing the background of their rivalry, the fight, and the "No más" (no more) moment of Durán resigning from the match.

The documentary tries to answer what provoked that moment and what followed it for both fighters through exclusive interviews with the fighters, trainers, and people who witnessed the event. That takes an interesting look at the mind-gaming, yet-seen warfare of sports, the pressure athletes live with, and how a career can be boiled down to one moment.

"Tyson" (2008)


  • James Toback


"Tyson" provides an intimate and shocking look into the life of Mike Tyson, from his early days under the guidance of Cus D'Amato to becoming the youngest heavyweight champion in history, and through his tumultuous years outside the ring.

The film is narrated by Tyson himself, offering a candid, no-holds-barred insight into his mind, battles, and the controversies that have followed him.

This documentary stands out for its raw emotion and the complex portrait it paints of a man who was both a ferocious fighter and a figure of sympathy.

Mike Tyson Documentary

"Facing Ali" (2009)


  • Pete McCormack


And now comes a boxing documentary that introduces with an unprecedented narrative: it is a film about Muhammad Ali as told from the perspective of his rivals.

The movie is edited from interviews with ten of his opponents—from Joe Frazier to George Foreman to Ken Norton—kind of a mosaic profile of insights concerning this man, who from being one of the biggest history heavyweights to become an iconic, and even mythic, figure by his charisma and leadership far beyond the realm of boxing.

Interviews give characteristics of Ali's fighting spirit, his psychological tactics, and respect his adversaries had developed for him. "Facing Ali" tells a good story—much of it in the words of the men who shared the ring with him.

A documentary that points out there is respect even in the fiercest of competition, proving that boxing is one of the most heartfelt sports of them all. This is very compelling for anyone really into the stories of how an athlete has to rise up and face the opportunity of getting in the ring with a legend.

Something that has to be added to the watch list, if you haven't already!

"Legendary Nights: The Tale of Gatti-Ward" (2013)



  • IMDb - 8.6/10

Part of the HBO documentary series "Legendary Nights," the HBO doc tracks the epic trilogy of battles held in the early 2000s between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward.

These Gatti-Ward wars are regarded as among the greatest fights ever fought in boxing, as they kept displaying unyielding courage and tenacity.

"Gatti-Ward" tells the story of these rivals, the savage physicality of their fights, and finally the respect that had been forged between the two. This documentary is an inspiring look at the brotherhood that exists amongst fighters, formed in the crucible of competition. 

This documentary puts viewers right there with the most intimidating fighters in the business, through the thrilling behind-the-scenes training footage and in the heart of the fighters.

"Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali" (2021)



  • IMDb - 6.9/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes - 94%

"Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali" takes an entertaining, yet powerful look at the bond between two of the greatest iconic figures of the 20th century. 

This documentary explores the deep and powerful intertwining of Malcolm X, one of the most charismatic leaders of the civil rights movement, and Muhammad Ali, considered one of the greatest champions to have ever lived.

Illustrating a friendship of a lifetime where inspiration draws from an amazing depth of respect and admiration between two great women, the documentary combines intimate interviews with rare archival footage to bring new light into their paths, struggles, and lasting impact on society.

This is quite a touching tribute to the legacies both "The Meeting" depicted, the paths of a period that could not help but inspire in American history. This film is a must-watch for stories of profound friendships, history, and sports.

The interlinked stories of Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali show how deep into the ways of boxing a sport can rise up to break out of its "comfort zone. This documentary is firmly about legacy and the effect that world-renowned boxers have had on the world stage.

"Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story" (2005)



  • IMDb - 7.5/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes - 67% 

And finally, to this group, certainly not least, falls in one that maybe would characterise a bit more with the newer era. 

"Ring of Fire" tells the poignant, inspirational tale of Emile Griffith, the world champion boxer most famous for his tragic bout with Benny Paret in 1962 in which Paret's life was ultimately taken 10 days later.

It examines Griffith's career, chilling effects of that fight, and his own struggles with his sexuality in the most unforgiving of sports and era. 

Mixing interviews with the requisite flashbacks and personal reflection, "Ring of Fire" mixes it all to provide a poignant cocktail of guilt, redemption, and one's search for identity in the hypermasculine world of boxing.

This powerful movie questions the viewer to question the personal fights fought by boxers and the hidden consequences of the sport most of the time, even as it offers great appreciation for the psychosocial and emotional complexities that competing athletes meet. 

Concluding Thoughts of the Top Boxing Documentaries

Super fun as it can be to watch, honestly, through these documentaries, we get a way richer sense of boxing than just a sport reflecting human struggle and cultural dynamics or, I don't know, searching for meaning beyond victory and defeat.

These triumphant trials of Muhammad Ali, the first African American heavyweight champion in Jack Johnson's battle, groundbreaking barriers, and the poignant journey of Emile Griffith all shine a light on the weighty impact boxing has had on its practitioners and the communities it touches. 

As we reflect on the best boxing documentaries of all time, it's clear that the sport offers profound insights into the complexities of life, identity, and community, making these films essential viewing for anyone captivated by the art and soul of boxing.

For enthusiasts drawn to the legendary tales and the spirit of the sport, our Boxing Collection offers a tangible connection to the legacy of boxing's greatest champions. Here, you can find gear that celebrates the history, fight, and passion of the boxing world, from training equipment to apparel inspired by the legends themselves.

FAQ: Boxing Documentaries

What is the #1 boxing movie?

"Rocky" is often considered the top boxing movie. Released in 1976, it tells the rags-to-riches American Dream story of Rocky Balboa, an underdog boxer who gets a shot at the world heavyweight championship.

What is the inspirational boxing movie?

"Cinderella Man" is highly inspirational. It portrays the true story of James J. Braddock, a boxer who became a symbol of hope during the Great Depression.

Who is the best boxer in movies?

Rocky Balboa, from the "Rocky" series, is frequently cited as the best movie boxer due to his iconic status and the impact of his character on the genre.

What is the Netflix boxer story?

"The Fighter" is a notable boxing story available on Netflix. It's a biographical sports drama about the life of professional boxer Micky Ward and his older brother who helped train him before going pro in the mid-1980s.

What is the old famous boxer movie?

"Raging Bull," directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta, is a classic boxing film from 1980. It's renowned for its gritty realism and powerful performances.

Is there a movie based on Mike Tyson?

Yes, "Tyson" is a film that explores the life of Mike Tyson, from his early years to his rise as a boxing champion. It includes dramatisations and documentary elements to tell his story.

What movie is about a boxer who went to jail?

"Southpaw" tells the story of Billy "The Great" Hope, a junior middleweight boxing champion who faces personal tragedy and ends up in a legal battle that leads to his incarceration, fighting his way back for the sake of his daughter.