Thursday, August 31, 2017

Counterpunch tells the story of athletes struggling to excel in a crooked game

The contrasting stories in Counterpunch offer a moving portrayal of athletes struggling to excel in a crooked game.
By Jason Overdorf - INDIA TODAY

(August 2017)

Now that Vijender Singh and company are introducing India to the theatrics of professional boxing, Jay Bulger's new Netflix documentary, Counterpunch, is required viewing. It follows the careers of former World Boxing Organisation (WBO) middleweight champion Peter 'Kid Chocolate' Quillin, top professional prospect Chris 'Lil B-Hop' Colbert and affable would-be US Olympian Cam F Awesome, yes, that's what it says on his passport. The contrasting stories offer a moving portrayal of athletes struggling to excel in a crooked game.

Having barely missed the 2012 Olympics, Awesome has had more amateur fights than anybody in America, and he's still pushing to make the 2016 Games, though he's older than many seasoned pros. At 18 years old, Colbert isn't thinking of the Olympics at all-but a contract with all-powerful promoter Al Haymon. Meanwhile, Quillin, who's already at the top, accepts $500,000 from Haymon in exchange for refusing to fight the mandatory challenger for his WBO belt and taking a year-long vacation instead. It's a Machiavellian manoeuvre by Haymon, who's out to control all the top fighters in the game, and the undefeated Quillin's comeback is marred by a controversial draw and then a loss to Danny Jacob. (Two years later, Quillin is yet to regain his title.) And when Colbert signs with Haymon as well, Bulger encourages you to see it as inking a deal with Mephistopheles.

But Haymon and Floyd 'Money' Mayweather aren't the ones who killed boxing. And the Don King-Mike Tyson era Bulger remembers with such fondness was hardly a golden age-as anybody who recalls the name Peter McNeeley will tell you.