With today’s theatrical release of Southpaw, the first bell has rung on the title bout that is the 2015 boxing-movie season.
The Antoine Fuqua drama, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope, a pugilistic prodigy who is the product of an orphanage in New York City's Hell’s Kitchen, has so far garnered overall mixed reviews. But, there seems to be solid agreement in favor of Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of the rough and ripped middleweight champion.
Unanimous decision: Dude can box.
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“Antoine wanted each of the fight scenes to be different,” says former pro boxer Terry Claybon, who trained Gyllenhaal in and out of the ring, and choreographed all of Southpaw’s fight scenes. “So what I did is I taught Jake five different styles of boxing in six months.”
Why? “The majority of the boxing movies out there, they only have two styles,” explains Claybon. “One is a broader style, and another one is the boxing-movie style. And that’s all you see in boxing movies. You never see the style of fighting that Jake was able to learn, with the moving, slick style and the broader aggressive, sluggish style. He was also able to learn the counter-puncher style, where he makes you miss and then makes you pay.”
Of course, true to the movie’s name, and — spoiler alert! — the secret to Billy’s comeback, Claybon says Gyllenhaal “also picked up the style of switching southpaw” as well as “the unique style of shelling up, where you go into a turtle type of shell and then you strike like a cobra — similar to a Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Archie Moore or Ken Norton-style.”
The other two movies people are eagerly awaiting ring-side seats to are October’s Bleed for This, starring Whiplash wunderkind Miles Teller, and Thanksgiving weekend’s Creed, which builds upon the Rocky legend by telling the story of Adonis Creed, starring Fruitvale Station standout Michael B. Jordan as the son of the Italian Stallion’s former (and deceased) rival Apollo Creed.
If the trailer is any indication, Jordan’s physical transformation will be every bit as buzz-worthy as Gyllenhaal’s, even if the style of fighting will be a bit different.
“We were looking at [emulating] fighters who naturally I was closest to [physically], and then also character-wise who we felt this guy was,” says Jordan, who bulked up to Hulk-like proportions with trainer Corey Calliet, who also worked with Jordan and Teller on August 7’s Fantastic Four. “We looked at [current WBO welterweight champion] Timothy Bradley, as far as his scrappiness. He’s unrefined, kind of wild, kind of unprofessional, a lot of dips, a lot of ducking, a lot of movement. Bradley does a lot of that, getting in close quarters and then getting back out. We looked at Sweetpea [retired lightweight great Pernell Whitaker], a lot of his boxing footage. I loved the way his combinations came in. Those are the two fighters I really paid attention to.”
With Gyllenhaal’s performance officially out there for everyone to see—and Teller’s and Jordan’s coming down the pike—we’re eagerly awaiting Michael Buffer’s instructions.