This week, David O. Russell’s The Fighter was released. Mark Wahlberg is an underdog boxer who is frequently referred to as a “stepping stone,” a low-level guy pitted against a better fighter. The “stepping stone” makes some money and his competitor builds up his rank in the boxing world. This American Life did an episode on just these types of boxers, called “opponents.”
For the uninitiated, This American Life is a weekly documentary radio program distributed by NPR and a free podcast. Funny, sad, poignant, sometimes covering the political, it is the most consistently satisfying program I have ever come across and in 2007 they stretched into the visual realm with a Showtimes series of the same name.
If you have seen The Fighter, This American Life’s season 2, episode 4 (titled “Underdogs”) might be of interest. It follows two boxers, usually earning work as “opponents” who are in dire need of a win. In my review of The Fighter I commented that I didn’t feel the stakes were high for Wahlberg’s big match. “Underdogs” has that missing urgency and the same palpable drama.
The episode is available on Netflix streaming and even if the episode isn’t a draw, you’re missing out if you aren’t listening or watching This American Life.