To watch Lennox Lewis: The Untold Story is to deepen your appreciation of how important coaches are, especially when a young athlete is at risk of becoming another statistic. It also brings into sharp focus just how intelligent of a fighter Lennox Lewis was, not only in the ring, but in life.
The documentary, narrated by Dr. Dre and created by Chad Verdi of Verdi Productions, also serves as a study in contrasts. Lewis had a difficult childhood in London, he was completely abandoned by his father and de facto abandoned by his mother, who was setting up a new life in Canada. He was rescued from his situation when finally reunited with his mother, Violet Blake, in Ontario. Violet made up for lost time by becoming a devoted caretaker of her son, even through his professional boxing career.
Those years on his own as a child in London had left their mark—as an adolescent Lewis found himself getting into trouble with the law. However, in the Canadian city of Kitchener, Lewis received very different treatment than what we are used to seeing in the United States. The Canadian police officers befriended Lewis and suggested he come to the police Boxing Club.
Once there, he met his first coach, Arnie Boehm. Arnie would become a surrogate father to Lewis, taking him camping and fishing, and ultimately becoming a steadying presence throughout his life. As a teenager, Lewis made fast friends with fellow athletes, men who would form the backbone of Lewis’s team throughout his professional career.
In Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” he concludes with, “And I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Lewis’s ability to discern good influences from bad, and his wisdom in keeping the good people close, made all the difference throughout his time as a fighter—through two Olympics and 44 fights as a professional—as well as some tough disappointments.
In stark contrast, Lennox Lewis: The Untold Story, also tracks Mike Tyson’s career, which serves as a dark mirror to Lewis’s. While still just teenagers, the two met in the Catskills to spar. Watching them fight, Cus D’Amato proclaimed that both boys would one day become heavyweight champion of the world. He was right, of course, but the roads taken to the same destination were very different indeed.
The Untold Story does a good job of weaving together the various plot points of Lewis’s life, and creates a satisfying subplot around his lifelong connection to Mike Tyson. However, while Lewis’s wife, as well as his mother Violet, allude to his deeper motivations, the documentary stays more focused on the action in the ring than looking into his psychology.
With the exception of Evander Holyfield, all the major players are present and accounted for and give good interviews. Of particular interest is sportscaster Jim Lampley, who does a good job of summing up the most salient points of Lewis’s story. The only real downside of this documentary is the sound mixing, but that alone isn’t enough to take away the power of Lewis’s remarkable life story.
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