CounterPunch is a stunning documentary written and directed by Jay Bulger. Bulger is a filmmaker out of Fordham University. His time in University was also his time as a competition Golden Gloves boxer. The connection Bulger has to the sport spills into every frame of CounterPunch. It’s clear this documentary is a cry for change and a labor of love.
CounterPunch follows fighters at every stage of their respective careers. Chris Colbert aka Lil B-Hop is an up-and-comer. A career amature with Olympic dreams, Cam F. Awesome, yes that’s his real name. And a former world titlist Peter Quillin aka Kid Chocolate. The three fighters all have different outlooks, histories, and experiences. The one thing they share is their love for the sport.
Through the eyes of these determined fighters the current state of the sport of Boxing in America is put through a bleak prism. The love of the sport is down. The public’s attention is waning. Infamous name brand boxers are at an all time low. Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather is one very rare exception and his presence is felt in the documentary.
Mayweather under the leadership of Al Haymon are introduced into the documentary as something of an antagonist, if the story were to have one. Haymon is accused of controlling the world of Boxing like a chess game. The doc doesn’t go as far as to say he fixes fights, nor is that impression presented, Haymon is just a businessman who is keeping this sport alive. Yes he profits greatly from his efforts, and his prized fighter, Mayweather, has done the same. That doesn’t mean they don’t love the sport and without the cash injection Boxing may not be around at all.
One of the most shocking aspects of the documentary is the story of Cam F Awesome. An eccentric fighter who legally changed his name when he decided he needed to reinvent his fighting persona. Awesome has the talent to go pro. Pro pays a whole lot more than amature. What pro doesn’t allow is for Awesome to compete on the US Olympic team.
Watching such a charismatic and likable individual try, and fail, to represent his country is heartbreaking. It isn’t a lack of skill. While Awesome’s form is unconventional the man is incredibly skilled. The trials to get onto the Olympic team are so strict even a slight accident can cost you your only shot.
Looking at this other side of the sport is as interesting as the main stream side of things. It’s eye opening to see what the fighter’s go through all for the love of the sport.
Large thanks has to be given to Bulger for his own love of the sport. The documentary is gritty but oozes authenticity. The picture is sometimes grainy and the shots underlit. These seeming flaws are style choices more than failures in film making. The interviews are candid. The training is real and nothing feels reenacted for the cameras.
Counterpunch is a fascinating look at the dwindling but electric world of boxing. The stories are gripping as any fictional fight movie and the struggle is more human interest than sports piece.