Lennox: The Untold Story review – a ringside seat for the rise of a champ | Documentary films

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If there’s one world heavyweight champion whose legend needs a little burnishing, it’s Lennox Lewis, and this documentary profile does a decent nuts-and-bolts job. It’s very much the authorised version, with Lewis, his wife, various sidemen, and longtime friend/antagonist Mike Tyson getting in front of the camera to say what a great guy Lewis is, and Dr Dre providing a supercharged voiceover narration.

Perhaps it’s true that Lewis has been hampered by his lack of an especially colourful personality; being neither a shameless lawbreaker nor a press-conference shouter, he tends to come over as rather anodyne. You can’t say by the end of this you are hanging on Lewis’s every word, but the film-makers take care to shoehorn in a couple of respectable chatshow gags, as well as footage from a Friars Club roast, which goes a little way to correct the general impression.

Still, the run-through of Lewis’s life and achievements is impressive in its accumulation. He was born in London, raised in Canada, won an Olympic gold medal, then segued into a professional career during which he broke the US stranglehold on the various world heavyweight titles which, with one or two very brief interruptions, had stretched back to the 1930s. There are the standard roadhumps along the way – such as the defeats to Evander Holyfield – but this is mostly a story of triumph, leading to the epic confrontation with Tyson in 2002 in which Lewis hit his professional high point.

Outside Lewis’s career trajectory, there are some interesting subplots. Now that British heavyweight champions are two a penny, it’s amusing to note the American resistance to a “tea-drinker” taking the belt (and the copious mentions of Bob Fitzsimmons, the last Brit to hold the title, in the 1890s). Some distinction is made between what we are led to believe is Lewis’s wholesome steadiness and Tyson’s insecurity, with the film-makers at some pains to present Tyson as a relatively genial customer off camera.

Probably the most striking presence is that of Kellie Maloney, Lewis’s former manager, who thanks Lewis for positively receiving her coming out as trans. It may be little surprise that one of this film’s co-directors, Rick Lazes, is working on another documentary, called Kellie.

• Lennox: The Untold Story is on digital formats from 16 November.

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Source: The Guardian
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