‘The Kings’ cast a royal documentary around Sugar Ray Leonard and his boxing teammates

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Give this four-part Showtime documentary points for effort, though like any good sports metaphor, the parallels to greed and “Morning in America” ​​only go so far. What is left, fortunately, is the often fascinating look at these larger-than-life personalities—who are involved in memories, heard but not seen—whose reputations benefit from competing with each other.

Inevitably, the spotlight keeps swinging back for Sugar Ray Leonard, the wildly telegenic Olympic champion, whose spirited personality and good looks make him Ali’s natural successor. Yet he not only had to make his way to the top, but also faced fighters of three other ages to stay there: Roberto (“Hands of Stone”) Duran, the marvelous Marvin Hagler (who died in march) and Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns.

Leonard’s media savvy, advertising and lucrative payoffs provoked jealousy among his peers, but also made him an extremely inviting rival. Yet when Leonard wasn’t available—which included multiple retirements and eventual withdrawal—the other three sparked memorable brawls, going up and down in weight classes and creating classic fights that flood back in while watching well-curated clips. come.

Showtime boxing analyst Steve Farhood called that stretch “perhaps the greatest period in the history of the sport”, highlighted by the unforgettable Leonard-Duran bouts in 1980, which marked the beginning of the quartet’s decade.

In the midst of juicy talk, Duran recalls taunting Leonard’s wife, luring her into a toe-to-toe slugfest in their first contest, and how she was undermined for a rematch—the end of its infamous “No Mass”. With – 50 pounds to make up the qualifying weight after dropping.

“He got inside my head,” Leonard says of the fight he lost before humiliating Duran in their next encounter. “He got under my skin.”

Beyond the transition from Carter to the Reagan administration, “The Kings” delves into the relationship between the Americas and Duran’s native Panama, fueling the hostility toward the Americas that inspired him.

There is also a serious aspect to the brutality of boxing, and the toll of precision blows on fighters is evidence of years. Analysts speak of these boxers being “addicted” to the thrill, money and competition, in almost every case (Hagler being an exception) hanging on past their primes.

In the context of boxing history, “The Kings” makes a compelling case that Leonard, Duran, Hagler and Hearns – who managed to shift the spotlight away from the heavyweight division – bridged the gap between Ali and the arrival of Mike Tyson. Gave it up subject of one Recent ABC Documentaries. (Ali’s legacy is also featured in “The City of Ali,” a new documentary about the impact of his death on his hometown of Louisville.)

The interviews also underscore the camaraderie that eventually emerged between these men, who chased each other outside the ring—in search of the next big payday—as aggressively as they fought inside it.

“Only they understand what they’re doing,” says trainer Teddy Atlas.

“The Kings” gets a little deluded with the political and cultural overtones of that, but by the time the final bell rings, viewers will get a better understanding of this generation of boxing royalty as well.

“The Kings” premieres June 6 at 8 p.m. ET on Showtime.

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