The 15 Best Boxing Documentaries

I grew up loving boxing.

Maybe it’s because of something my dad said to me when I was 11 years old.

He stopped me, shook my hand super-hard, and said:

“Now you’ve shook the hand…that shook the hand…of Jack Johnson.” (Dad, as a child, had shaken boxing great Jack Johnson’s hand).

That hand of Johnson’s knocked out 45 people, winning 80 matches (and fighting 114 times).

Then, Dad handed me two pairs of boxing gloves (one big, one small).

At that point on, I clipped out newspaper articles of all the best boxing matches of the time. My idols were Sugar Ray Leonard, Durán, Hagler, Hearns (that was my time).

The new gloves had an impact on me too.

All the tough guys in my fifth grade class now started inviting themselves to my house after school to (usually) beat the crap out of me in the basement! At least it helped me get in with the tough guy clique. Thanks, Jimmy McGrath!

So, it’s with extra pleasure that I give you my top ranked boxing documentaries.

Thx again, Dad!


1) Legendary Nights

Punch for punch, the “Legendary Nights” docuseries has the best boxing footage there is.

The series covers 12 fights (one episode for each).

You can click the video embed above to start watching (for free!), or…

You can read my recaps of the 12 fights below. I include the start time of each in case you want to skip to one.

SPOILER ALERT (I mention, or hint at, who won each fight).

So, skip the below list if you want to watch the fights first:

  1. Hagler vs Sugar Ray (0:00): The bad blood between Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard stretched back years, but when they finally collided in 1987, Leonard pulled off a narrow and controversial split decision win that left Hagler fuming in defeat.
  2. Tyson vs Douglas (24:02): No one gave Buster Douglas a shot against feared heavyweight king Mike Tyson in Tokyo, but a focused Douglas capitalized on a woefully underprepared Tyson to author one of boxing’s greatest upsets with a 10th round KO.
  3. JCC vs Taylor (49:00): In a 1990 junior welterweight classic, Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez gradually wore down and stopped Philadelphia’s Meldrick Taylor with just two seconds left, in a bitterly disputed ending that broke Taylor’s spirit.
  4. Holyfield vs Bowe (1:14:03): Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe etched their names in fistic folklore with an epic heavyweight title trilogy in the 1990s filled with momentum swings, bravery and Bowe’s final fall from grace.
  5. Foreman vs Moorer (1:39:04): Written off at 45 years old, George Foreman incredibly knocked out Michael Moorer in 1994 to complete an implausible comeback and become boxing’s oldest heavyweight champ.
  6. Bowe vs Golota (2:04:00): Andrew Golota couldn’t control his fouling demons in two mad fights with Riddick Bowe, getting himself disqualified both times and triggering a riot in the Garden after the first bout.
  7. De La Hoya vs Trinidad (2:28:58): The Golden Boy Oscar De La Hoya boxed magnificently early before scandalously coasting late, enabling Puerto Rico’s Felix Trinidad to gain a controversial 1999 points win in their long awaited welterweight superfight.
  8. Lewis vs Tyson (2:53:58): Former undisputed heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis ruthlessly battered an eroded Mike Tyson into submission in just eight rounds in 2002, fatally puncturing the myth surrounding Iron Mike.
  9. Sugar Ray vs Hearns (3:19:42): In 1981’s electrifying Showdown, Sugar Ray Leonard, behind on points and battered in round 13, unleashed a furious rally to stop Thomas Hearns in round 14 of an all-time welterweight barnburner.
  10. Holmes vs Cooney (3:40:20): Sharpshooter Larry Holmes wore down the touted Great White Hope Gerry Cooney before stopping him in the 13th round of their racially charged 1982 heavyweight title bout.
  11. Arguello vs Pryor (4:05:02): The two 140-pound warriors Aaron Pryor and Alexis Arguello engaged in an unforgettable first fight in 1982, with a mysterious late-rounds burst allowing Pryor to survive and brutally kayo Arguello in Round 14.
  12. Hagler vs Hearns (4:29:38): Marvin Hagler’s legendary three-round war with Thomas Hearns in 1985 is etched in boxing lore for its ferocity and the incredible pace set from the opening bell.

Watch “Legendary Nights” for free on YouTube by clicking the embed above or clicking here:

2) More Than Famous

“More than Famous,” directed by Graham Rich, proves that true heroes still exist in the squared circle.

This isn’t your average jab-and-dance boxing doc.

The story goes deep into the life of Salvadorian-American boxer Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez.

Carlos, past 30 and far from throwing in the towel, trains for two titanic bouts.

Hernandez, underdog extraordinaire, is prepping to face off against Floyd Mayweather – yeah, that Mayweather – in Mayweather’s Michigan stronghold.

It’s like marching into the Death Star armed with nothing but a blaster and a dream.

Then there’s his Latin American tussle with Juan Marcias in El Salvador – a fight that’s less about belts and more about pride.

But hold up, “More than Famous” is a love story, too.

Carlos and his wife, Veronica, they’re like the Jay-Z and Beyoncé of boxing. Veronica isn’t just ringside support; she’s a co-star in Hernandez’s quest for glory.

So, for anyone who loves a good underdog story, who gets that boxing is more than just left hooks and uppercuts, “More than Famous” is your ticket.

“More Than Famous” was first released on HBO but I don’t see it on HBO Max right now. I’ll add streaming options when I find them. In the meantime, here’s a link to buy the DVD from Amazon:

Also, here’s an interview with Hernandez which includes talking about being the only person to ever knock down Mayweather

3) Muhammad Ali

If you want the most comprehensive doc on Muhammad Ali, it’s by Ken Burns (of course). (although “Muhammad Ali: The Whole Story” (below) (at 5 hours and 48 minutes) gives it a run for its money)

Burns’ “Muhammad Ali” (2021) is a 4-part docu-series (each about 2 hours). It’s a chronoligical history of Ali:

  1. “Round One: The Greatest (1942-1964)” — This sets the stage of young Cassius Clay’s rise. From snagging gold at the 1960 Olympics to his early pro bouts. It’s Cassius, the star in the making.
  2. “Round Two: What’s My Name? (1964-1970)” — Here we see Ali’s transformation – from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, a name change that echoes beyond the ring. It’s about his domination in the heavyweight ranks and the clash with the U.S. government over his refusal to join the army.
  3. “Round Three: The Rivalry (1970-1974)” focuses on Ali’s return from boxing exile. Here, Ali battles against Joe Frazier and his fight to reclaim the heavyweight title. It’s Ali reclaiming his spot in a world that tried to put him down.
  4. “Round Four: The Spell Remains (1974-2016)” is the grand finale. Here, Ali shocks the world by defeating George Foreman in Zaire (sorry for the spoiler!). It’s a rollercoaster ride from the iconic “Rumble in the Jungle” to the “Thrilla in Manila”. It’s Ali’s later years of boxing and his transition into a global humanitarian.

You can watch Burns’ “Muhammad Ali” for free on Hoopla (with library card) at

Watch the entire “Round Four: The Spell Remains” on PBS (with subscription (requires donation)) at

Other streaming options are at

4) Rumble in the Jungle (BBC)

Ahh, the Rumble in the Jungle! I’m so into this fight that I dedicated a whole page ranking docs about it. It’s here: “The Best Documentaries on ‘The Rumble in the Jungle'” .

I rank “Rumble in the Jungle (BBC)” the best because it makes me feel like I’m there.

I’ll review “When We Were Kings” next below.

This BBC doc jumps right into the action – Ali, the underdog poet-warrior, entering a sweltering Kinshasa arena to take on Foreman.

This is no mere boxing match; it’s a chess match with gloves.

The backstory behind the venue is crazy – tickets were sold for an arena with no seats. Foreman’s arrival with police dogs turns the crowd pro-Ali.

Ali uses his charm to win over the locals.

The first 21 minutes build the hype and mind games. Foreman almost derails everything with a pre-fight injury, but Ali ensures the show goes on.

Then, it’s eight rounds of strategic warfare as Ali, a 5-1 underdog, absorbs Foreman’s blows while chilling on the ropes. He’s baiting Foreman into his Rope-A-Dope trap.

Watch it for free on YouTube at

5) When We Were Kings

“When We Were Kings” is the flashy, Oscar-winning (1996) doc that goes deeper into the Rumble in the Jungle than the BBC.

Director Leon Gast uses 88 minutes to showcase this not just as a fight, but as a cultural phenomenon.

Gast doesn’t just replay punches; he sets the stage – Zaire, 1974, a time capsule of seismic politics, music and sports.

What makes “Kings” unique is Gast bringing in literary voices like Norman Mailer and George Plimpton for New Yorker-esque play-by-play.

The music also stands out – James Brown, B.B. King turn this into a foot-tapping, soul-stirring film.

Ali’s bravado-filled charisma is center stage, but it delves into his political and cultural impact. He’s not just a boxer; he’s a larger-than-life symbol and hero.

“When We Were Kings” is outstanding because it’s not just about a fight; it’s about an era.

Watch “When We Were Kings” on:

6) What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali

I know what you’re saying: “More Ali?”


Afterall, he is “The Greatest”.

“What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali” (2019) is an HBO Original — and they don’t mess around with either documentaries or boxing.

This doc is (directed by Antoine Fuqua) is no different.

Split into two parts, it’s like binge-watching the greatest athlete story ever told, but every word, every punch, every rhyme is real.

Fuqua tells Ali’s story largely through Ali’s own words. It’s packed with archival gold – classic fight footage, iconic Ali quips, the works.

Watching this doc is like sitting down with Ali himself– from Olympic gold to Rumble in the Jungle, from lightning-fast jabs to battles with Parkinson’s.

Fuqua doesn’t sugarcoat. He shows Ali in all his complexity – as a fighter, a poet, a provocateur, a hero.

For newbies, it’s Ali 101. And for Ali experts, it’s a powerful reminder of Ali as loud, clear, and unapologetic – exactly how he’d want to be remembered.

Watch “What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali” on HBO Max at You might also be able to get it on Spectrum and other HBO bundles like Hulu (check here for that).

Watch it on:

7) Jack Johnson: Unforgivable Blackness (2004)

Ken Burns’ “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson,” is the story of boxing’s first African American heavyweight champ.

It’s based on the 2004 nonfiction book of the same name by Geoffrey C. Ward.

It’s more than just a story about a guy who was good with his fists.

It’s a saga of race and defiance during the Jim Crow era.

Jack Johnson is the OG of boxing rebels.

This two-part epic is packed with the usual Burns’ depth of photographs, archival footage, narrative history (220 minutes of it!).

It’s got critic (and poet) Stanley Crouch offering commentary, including an exchange about Johnson answering a white woman’s question about Black people.

Watch it “Jack Johnson: Unforgivable Blackness” for free on Alexander Street with a library card here:

It looks like you can watch part 1 of the doc for free here:

8) Strong Bodies Fight (2011)

“Strong Bodies Fight” is about the University of Notre Dame’s boxing team, where the motto is “Strong bodies fight, that weak bodies may be nourished”

Directed by William Donaruma, the 75 min. doc takes us inside the iconic Bengal Bouts, Notre Dame’s annual boxing tournament.

But here’s the twist – these college boxers throw punches to raise money for the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh.

It’s like “Fight Club” meets charity gala.

You get to see these Notre Dame students train like pros, but the real knockout is their commitment to something bigger than themselves.

Watch it for free on Vimeo at

9) El Boxeo (2013)

“El Boxeo,” directed by Alan Swyer, dives into the world of Latino boxing.

Legends like Julio César Chávez, Oscar De La Hoya, Roberto Durán –they aren’t just boxers; they’re icons, heroes, and in Swyer’s film, they’re the heart and soul of the story.

What sets “El Boxeo” (1 hr 50 min) apart is its scope. We’re not just ringside for the big fights; we’re on a journey through history, culture, and the socio-economic tangles that shaped these fighters.

It’s about the triumphs, sure, but it’s also about the fights outside the ring – the discrimination, the battles for recognition.

It’s a celebration of a culture, a community, and the fighters who’ve become its voice.

Watch El Boxeo for free (with ads) on Tubi and PlutoTV or rent it for $ on Amazon. All streaming options should be here:

10) Golden Gloves: The Life of Million Dollar Babies (2007)

Here’s the trailer:

“Golden Gloves: The Life of Million Dollar Babies” is a 57 min. doc directed by New York teacher Leyla Leidecker.

It focuses on a handful of young boxers fighting in Brooklyn, New York such as:

  • Geneve Brossard
  • Melissa Hernandez
  • Justine Herrera
  • Maimumah Holland
  • Kathy Hutchins
  • Gene Martin
  • Melissa St. Vil

There are extensive interviews with New York Daily News boxing sportswriter Bill Farrell.

You can watch the first 2 minutes & 41 seconds of “Golden Gloves: The Life of Million Dollar Babies” here:

11) Muhammad Ali: The Whole Story (1996)

“Muhammad Ali: The Whole Story,” a 1996 epic by Joseph and Sandra Consentino, clocks in at a marathon 5 hours and 48 minutes.

Danny Maseng narrates.

The film includes Ali’s inner circle like Khalilah and Rahman Ali, to ring legends Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

Watch 1 hour and 32 minutes of”Muhammad Ali: The Whole Story” for free on YouTube here: Sorry, that’s all I can find.

12) Suffer For Good

“Suffer for Good,” Danny Simmons’ 2020 doc, is the real-deal story of Seb Zewdie, an Ethiopian boxer whose Olympic dreams got KO’d by the 1984 boycott.

Fast forward, and Seb’s not throwing punches anymore; he’s teaching them, coaching up-and-comers with a passion that’s downright infectious.

It’s like a Rocky story, but with a twist – the hero’s in the corner, not the ring.

Simmons brings us into Seb’s world, showing a guy who’s been sucker-punched by fate but still stands tall.

This guy, he’s got grit that Hollywood couldn’t script.

This isn’t just some underdog story; it’s

For anyone who loves a tale of an underdog comeback story, of spirit, of never hanging up the gloves no matter what, “Suffer for Good” is your jam.

Watch Suffer For Good for free on Kanopy or on Amazon Prime Video or (with ads) on Roku, Tubi, PlutoTV and Freevee. All streaming options should be here:

13) Facing Ali (2009)

“Facing Ali,” the 2009 documentary by Pete McCormack, offers a unique perspective on Muhammad Ali: from his opponents!

This doc is a compilation of interviews with 10 boxers who fought Ali:

  • George Chuvalo: Known for his iron chin and incredible resilience, Chuvalo fought Ali twice, including the famous “Clay-Chuvalo War” in 1966.
  • Sir Henry Cooper: The only British boxer to ever knock down Ali, Cooper is remembered for their 1963 bout where Ali famously recovered from the knockdown to win.
  • George Foreman: Perhaps Ali’s most iconic opponent, Foreman delivered the brutal “Rumble in the Jungle” knockout in 1974, but later went on to become friends with Ali.
  • Joe Frazier: Ali’s fierce rival and the only boxer to defeat him twice, Frazier’s trilogy of fights with Ali are legendary in boxing history.
  • Larry Holmes: Another champion considered an Ali rival, Holmes faced Ali in a controversial 1980 bout and later developed a respect for the legend.
  • Ron Lyle: Known for his powerful punching, Lyle gave Ali a tough challenge in their 1975 fight, even knocking him down before ultimately losing.
  • Ken Norton: The only boxer to break Ali’s jaw, Norton defeated Ali in their first meeting but lost the rematch and their rivalry remained one of respect.
  • Earnie Shavers: Possessing one of the hardest punches in history, Shavers put Ali in serious danger in their 1977 fight, though Ali ultimately prevailed.
  • Leon Spinks: An Olympic gold medalist who shocked the world by defeating Ali in 1978, Spinks lost the rematch but remained a significant figure in Ali’s career.
  • Ernie Terrell: Ali’s controversial fight with Terrell in 1967, during which Ali repeatedly taunted Terrell about his wife’s blindness,

What sets this documentary apart is its format. There’s no narrator, just the fighters themselves sharing their experiences with Ali.

Watch Facing Ali” for free on Hoopla (with library card) or on Amazon’s Prime Video or Tubi (with ads). All streaming options should be here:

14) The Kings

“The Kings,” the 2021 documentary, is a time capsule of one of the sport’s golden eras.

Directed by Mat Whitecross, it dives into the legendary rivalries of four of boxing’s greatest: Roberto Durán, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, and Sugar Ray Leonard.

This four-part series is like a high-speed ride through the 1980s.

Whitecross doesn’t just recount wins and losses. He crafts a narrative about what made Durán, Hagler, Hearns, and Leonard more than boxers.

Watch “The Kings” on Paramount+ or Fubo or Spectrum. All the streaming options are here:

15) One Night: Joshua vs. Ruiz

“One Night: Joshua vs. Ruiz,” is a doc on the June 2019 heavyweight bout between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr..

It’s a fight that shook the boxing world to its core.

Directed by Deirdre Fenton and Jamie Horowitz, with a keen eye for drama, the doc captures the epic night.

It wasn’t just about Joshua, the chiseled, undefeated champion, or Ruiz, the underestimated underdog.

It’s about the night where expectations were flipped. Boxing narratives were rewritten in real-time.

You get the buildup, the tension, the atmosphere of the night at Madison Square Garden.

And the great part about a good fight at MSG, you get the celebs invovled

The doc has Sly Stallone, Evander Holyfield, Tracy Morgan, Sugar Ray, Tyson, Michael Strahan and Buster Douglas.

It’s like being in the crowd as Ruiz, the supposed easy win for Joshua, dismantles the champ round by round.

Good stuff!

Watch the 38 min. doc for free on YouTube at

Thanks for reading!

-Rob Kelly