Give this four-part Showtime documentary points for the effort, though, as with any good sports metaphor, the analogies of greed and “Tomorrow in America” go only so far. Fortunately, what remains is an often intriguing glimpse of these larger-than-life personalities – reminiscent, heard but not seen – whose reputations have benefited from the competition.
Leonard’s media knowledge, recommendations and lucrative paydays provoked envy among his colleagues, but also made him an extremely inviting opponent. However, when Leonard was unavailable – including multiple retirements and eventual comebacks – the other three fought memorable brawls, moving up and down in weight classes, and producing classic fights that come back as you watch the well-curated clips.
Showtime boxing analyst Steve Farhood calls this stretch “perhaps the greatest period in the history of the sport,” highlighted by the memorable Leonard Duran fights in 1980 that ushered in the quartet’s decade.
Among the juicy tidbits, Duran recalls mocking Leonard’s wife to lure him into a head-to-toe punch-out in their first competition, and how he did for the rematch – with its infamous “no más” ending – was weakened by being 50. had to drop pounds to make the qualifying weight.
“It got into my head,” says Leonard of the fight he lost before humiliating Duran in their next encounter. “He got under my skin.”
Beyond the transition from the Carter to the Reagan administration, “The Kings” makes a detour into the relationship between the United States and Duran’s homeland, Panama, which fueled an animosity towards America that motivated him.
There is also a sobering aspect of the brutality of boxing and the evidence of the many years of punches precisely inflicted on the fighters. Analysts say these boxers are “addicted” to thrills, money, and competition, in almost every case (Hagler is an exception) well beyond their prime.
The interviews also highlight the camaraderie that eventually emerged between these men who chased one another outside of the ring – looking for the next big payday – as aggressively as they fought inside.
“Only they understand what they have been through,” says coach Teddy Atlas.
“The Kings” gets a little swept up in the political and cultural undertones, but when the final bell rings, viewers will understand this generation of boxing kings better, too.
“The Kings” premieres on June 6th at 8pm ET on Showtime.