Product Review: Roots of Fight Tyson ’88 Hoodie

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In the last 30 years, there hasn’t been a heavyweight boxer as good as Mike Tyson. Arguably the greatest heavyweight of all-time, the 5-10 Tyson, with just a 71-inch reach, routinely knocked out opponents that were five inches taller and a quarter of his own bodyweight heavier.

After his 38-second knockout win over Lou Savarese in 2000, Tyson uttered potentially the greatest quote in boxing history. “My style is impetuous, my defense is impregnable, and I’m just ferocious.”

And it wasn’t just about his success in the ring. The brand of Mike Tyson has experienced the crossover appeal that no other boxer, outside of Muhammad Ali, can lay claim to.

If you grew up in the ’80s or early ’90s, you spent hours engaging the likes of Soda Popinski and Mr. Sandman in the Nintendo tour de force “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out.” At his peak, “Kid Dynamite” was one of the most popular athletes in the world and still is to this day, thanks to his one-man show, “The Undisputed Truth.”

Even eight years after his final bout, Tyson’s legacy as a fighter and as a brand are both as impregnable as ever.

Roots of Fight pays tribute to the rich history of martial arts, boxing and MMA, and connects the history with images of iconic fighters like Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Helio Gracie and Bruce Lee in its clothing collection.

And we aren’t talking Affliction, Silver Star or any other weird fighting apparel that gives a nod to the strip mall jiu-jitsu black belt ethos that permeates the modern fight landscape.

Roots of Fight is all substance, no flash and dash. If Affliction is for the twenty-somethings who still haven’t learned humility is where it’s at, Roots of Fight is the quiet man whose presence alone controls the room.

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Stephen Frears (“Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight”)

Director Stephen Frears has done so much notable work for the cinema that it’s sometimes easy to forget that he’s more than capable of dipping his toe into the world of television on occasion as well. His latest effort behind the camera, “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” falls somewhere between the two mediums: the HBO Films production is making its TV debut on – where else? – HBO this Saturday, but it was actually screened in Cannes back in August, along with its small-screen brethren, “Behind the Candelabra.”

During this summer’s TCA press tour, I was fortunate enough to sit down with Frears and discuss his work on “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” including how he came to join the project and what he knew about Ali’s Supreme Court struggles prior to signing on, but he was also kind of enough to chat about a number of his other films. Although the conversation occasionally drifted in unanticipated directions, the sidebar excursions proved just as enjoyable and entertaining as anything that I’d gone in actually planning to bring up.

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Bullz-Eye: What was your familiarity with the Muhammad Ali story going into this project?

Stephen Frears: Well, it was both a lot and nothing. In other words… I remember Ali fighting (Sonny) Liston, so that’s how old I am. [Laughs.] I don’t remember the Olympics. But then I remember the trouble in America, of course. And then he sort of disappeared, and I couldn’t tell you what happened until he fought in Zaire and he became a sort of comedian. He became very, very funny. So this bit was like a sort of black hole.

BE: How did you come aboard as director?

SF: I ran into Shawn (Slovo) at a party. I said, “What are you doing?” She said, “I’m writing something very, very interesting.” [Shrugs, then laughs.] So I snooped around and found that it was very interesting. Simple as that.

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BE: Had you known her prior to that?

SF: I knew her to gossip to her, to say “hello” and talk to her at that party. [Laughs.] But now I know her much better.

BE: Was the script more or less filmed as written, or did you have to do some tweaking to make it work?

SF: I think there was a certain amount. I like to have the writer on set, because in a sense you’re writing all the time, but that’s just to make scenes clearer, things you learn as you go along. It must at some point have sorted itself out enough for us to say, “Right, let’s make this.” I can’t recall, there might’ve been a couple of drafts that we went through before we made it. And then we were writing the whole time on set, just to make things clearer.

BE: It’s interesting that the film focuses on a key moment in Ali’s career, yet it does so without ever portraying Ali. His presence is simply via archival footage. Was that always the plan?

SF: Yes, that was always planned, and the truth is that it was a great relief. The idea of casting Ali didn’t bear thinking about, so I was really pleased by that. But the interesting thing about archival footage is that people never quite say what you want them to say. [Laughs.] They don’t say what you’d like. But eventually we started finding a way how to deal with it. So it was very, very interesting.

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R.I.P. Joe Frazier

The great Joe Frazier has passed away at the age of 67 after a battle with cancer. We had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Frazier two years ago. He told us about his epic battles with Muhammad Ali and George Forman and also playfully hinted that he would have beaten Mike Tyson.

Frazier was a class act and he couldn’t have been nicer when we interviewed him. Yet he had to endure years of outrageous taunts from Ali and the bitterness stayed with him for years. But recently that changed according to ESPN:

Frazier, who in his later years would have financial trouble and end up running a gym in his adopted hometown of Philadelphia, took the jabs personally. He felt Ali made fun of him by calling him names and said things that were not true just to get under his skin. Those feelings were only magnified as Ali went from being an icon in the ring to one of the most beloved people in the world.

After a trembling Ali it the Olympic torch in 1996 in Atlanta, Frazier was asked by a reporter what he thought about it.

“They should have thrown him in,” Frazier responded.

He mellowed, though, in recent years, preferring to remember the good from his fights with Ali rather than the bad. Just before the 40th anniversary of his win over Ali earlier this year — a day Frazier celebrated with parties in New York — he said he no longer felt any bitterness toward Ali.

“I forgive him,” Frazier said. “He’s in a bad way.”

Frazier is one of the true boxing legends from its Golden Age and he will be missed.

  

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