Charting the life and career of undefeated world boxing champ, Joe Calzaghe, Vaughan Sivell’s new documentary is a wholly revitalising take on the sports biopic. Most would assume Mr Calzaghe is a highlight reel, the boxer’s greatest and most important fights broken down into miniscule detail. While they certainly play a part, it’s the insight offered from Joe and his family that truly makes this film.
On paper, Joe’s story reads like a movie: born to a musician father in Wales and bullied mercilessly at school for his Italian heritage and short stature, he used boxing as a way to escape and turned pro in 1993. By the time he retired undefeated in 2009, he’d become the longest reigning super middleweight champion in history, only giving up the title to move on to light heavyweight. Through fight footage and interviews – with Joe, his family, his friends and opponents, as well as journalists and a few notable fans (actors Michael J Fox and Matthew Rhys, as well as Manic Street Preachers’ frontman James Dean Bradfield) – Sivell gives us a blow by blow account of Calzaghe’s career, as well as a deep and heart-warming insight into the man behind the myth.
The fight scenes are excellent, well-edited and built upon, so that even those in the audience who know the outcomes will be biting their nails. With the added insights they become more than just title fights, since Joe explains the importance of each one for both his career and personal life, adding that extra layer of significance. But it’s the relationship between Joe and his father and trainer, Enzo, that really steals the show. Their bond is nothing short of magical and Enzo’s translation of his musical knowledge into Joe’s fighting strategies is fascinating.
The grittier aspects of Joe’s personal life are touched upon, but rarely dwelt on and only discussed in relation to his career. This is oddly refreshing, as too often biopics become too focused on the loses and it’s uplifting that Mr Calzaghe focuses more on the wins. For some this may suggest bland viewing, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The balance between the human emotions and the more technical aspects is expertly achieved and Joe’s story is so gripping, so empowering, that even non-boxing fans will glean something from it.
Mr Calzaghe is released nationwide on 20th November 2015.
Watch the trailer for Mr Calzaghe here: