Netflix CounterPunch Documentary Poster

Released last month, the film "Chuck" told the story of New Jersey heavyweight Chuck Wepner, whose surprising and gutsy effort against Muhammad Ali became the inspiration for Rocky Balboa. Mike Tollin, one of the producers, has noted that "Chuck" wasn't exactly a boxing movie. It was more of a character-driven story that happened to feature a boxer as well as being a period piece capturing Jersey of the 70s in an "American Hustle" sort of way.

Tollin's latest production is pure boxing.

But "CounterPunch," a Netflix documentary, has its characters too.

To explain the state of boxing in America, "CounterPunch" profiles fighters who represent different places on the competitive spectrum: the amateur, the professional and the prospect.

Cam F Awesome

Cam F. Awesome, the boxer formerly known as Lenroy Thompson, is considered the ultimate amateur after spending more than 10 years trying to make it to the Olympics. Peter Quillin is considered the quintessential professional because at times he has been paid not to box as a way of maintaining his ranking. Chris Colbert is the prospect whose nickname is Little B-Hop because his mentor is former world champion Bernard Hopkins.

"It's very revealing, and it really does give you both the micro of who these guys are and what they're dreaming and what their prospects are, and the macro," Tollin says. "It's a challenge. Let's face it, boxing is not what it was. But there's the pay-per-view numbers, and HBO and Showtime still rely to a great extent on those revenues. You could look at half a dozen reasons why it's fallen off its perch, sociological and otherwise."

But it's not dead.

"It just needs to reinvent itself a little bit, and audiences are being attracted to lighter fighters and seeing the appeal in the non-heavyweight divisions," Tollin says. "A film like this will get you behind the curtain and to really appreciate what they go through to go there."

CounterPunch will be shown at the LA Film Festival on June 15 and released the next day on Netflix.

It will also take a closer look at how many traditional boxing gyms, which kept kids off the streets, are disappearing. Director Jay Bulger, a former Golden Gloves boxer, and his crew spent time at Atlas Cops and Kids in Brooklyn, one of the last free gyms in New York City, to get an understanding of what a place like that can mean to a youngster.

"Seeing the kids work out and talking to kids who are old enough to see that this gym saved their life -- that's something we want to focus on in the film," Tollin says. "There's this infrastructure that's dying, that needs to be preserved and protected because it's critical. Young athletes these days generally drift to basketball and football rather than boxing, which is why we don't win medals anymore."

The film is dedicated to Michael King, who died in 2015. He was part of the family that ran King World, the TV syndication company that handles distribution for shows such as "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" King was a big boxing enthusiast, and his friendship with Ted Sarandos, the chief content officer at Netflix, helped this project materialize.

"He spent a lot of money trying to promote American heavyweights," Tollin says of King. "That was his focus. He has a gym -- it still exists in Culver City -- and he worked really closely with the boxing authorities. He really pumped a lot of money into it, and he would stage fights at that hangar in Santa Monica."

Morningside 5

Tollin has a second documentary showing at the LA Film Festival. He is the director of Morningside 5, which will be screened June 21 and then premiere on ESPN on August 8.

In 1993, Tollin spent a season with the basketball team from Morningside High in Inglewood, California, that was expected to repeat as state champions only to be upset in the title game. The result was the documentary "Hardwood Dreams," with Wesley Snipes as narrator, that aired on Fox in prime time. A 2004 sequel gave updates on the lives of the players. Now "Morningside 5" catches up with them again as they approach middle age.

"It’s not a usual 30 for 30, because usually that's triumph or tragedy," Tollin says. "But with this, it's neither. It's kind of in between. There’s a little of each. But it's real life."

Looking further ahead, Tollin, the co-chairman of Mandalay Sports Media, is working on five films for the new Olympics channel. Production is underway for two.

One examines the Cuban boxing program and the greatness of heavyweight Teofilo Stevenson, who won three Olympic gold medals and declined a $5 million offer in 1976 to face Ali.

The other is about the hockey team from the Czech Republic that won the gold medal in 1998, the first time the NHL took a mid-season break to allow its players to compete at the Olympics.

The Czechs had arguably the best player (Jaromir Jagr) and best goalie (Dominik Hasek) in the world at the time. But with about half of their roster stocked by non-NHL players, they were underdogs in the semifinals against Canada, which had Hall of Famers like Wayne Gretzky, Raymond Bourque, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy. After an overtime period, the game went to a five-round shootout, and Robert Reichel, a center for the Czechs, scored the only goal.

"We found a really cool, really great Czech director who was a little kid at the time, and he was wide-eyed to direct this film," Tollin says. "The cavalcade of all-stars was amazing."

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