The Ron Peck dynasty
Paul Zanon reviews two often overlooked classic films that shed light on 'real-life' boxing...
In a day and age where we seem to be saturated with yet another Rocky movie, or a similar paralleled piece of fiction, it’s refreshing to watch ‘real’ boxing, from the good old days.
Twenty five years on from their release, ‘Fighters,’ and ‘Real Money,’ both films by Ron Peck, have been re-released.
At the time of their first appearance, the late, great boxing scribe, Harry Mullan referred to 'Fighters' as "the best film ever made about professional boxing".
If you watch it, you’ll be hard pushed to disagree.
'Fighters' possesses all the ingredients needed to keep you glued to the screen for the full 101 minutes, funnily enough quite the reverse characteristics of many Hollywood attractions.
The film is immersed in some of the iconic gyms of East London, such as the Royal Oak, with back drops including the likes of Terry Lawless. Instead of chart-topping music, you will be mesmerised by the sounds of professional boxers skipping rope, punching bags and hitting the speed-ball to a perfect rhythm.
And if you’re looking for the likes of Stallone on this reel, forget it. Instead, you have an even better treat - boxers! Real-life boxers, the majority of whom were active in their pro careers at the time of filming. The impressive list includes Mark Kaylor, Mark Tibbs, Dean Hollington, Roy and Jason Rowland, Bradley Stone, Jim and Joey Peters, Terry Dixon, all being trained by one of the East End’s most iconic figures, Jimmy Tibbs.
Hearing Jimmy growl out, "Left hook, right uppercut, left hook!" then shouting, "AGAIN!" genuinely makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. You actually feel like you are part of the session, as you glance through the windows to see old landscape the London Docklands used to provide, before the skyscraper generation sprouted up.
Even if you’ve never boxed before, you will have a level of empathy with the sweat and pain the fighters are going through to get to the end result.
Jimmy Flint plays the part of a dark character, torn between fiction and his real-life fighting substance, as the 'Wapping Assassin'. His sketches away from the gym focus on how after a 30-fight career he never won anything, but he still feels the need to fight. It's an instinct that he can’t turn off.
Many of the other fighters talk about the reality of boxing. The late Bradley Stone discusses how tough it is trying to make ends meet as a professional boxer striving to make a living from the sport, while Mark Kaylor comes over from the US to have one last stab at working up to a world title shot.
The fighters speak truth and it’s the kind of truth that’s still eerily relevant in the current day. As Bradley Stone said: "Around here [referring to Canning Town], you either kick a ball or learn how to box." The alternative being getting involved with crime to make up the balance of cash needed to pay the bills.
All of which leads us nicely on to the next film…
'Real Money' picks up directly from Stone’s comment. It’s no secret that a fair few boxers have had to generate an income from illegal means. Dealing drugs is probably the most common.
As opposed to 'Fighters', 'Real Money', although based on true life, is not a documentary. However, if you’re looking for a cracking father and son performance from Jimmy and Mark Tibbs, and a spine chilling lead from Jimmy Flint as the gangster boss, you certainly need to watch this one also.
Final tip – watch the out-takes on 'Real Money'. Seeing Jimmy Tibbs lose his rag is priceless.
All in all, if you are a true boxing fan and haven’t seen these DVDs, you’re in for a treat. They both come highly recommended.