Everyone loves a good boxing story. There have honestly been more boxing movies than the internet can count. Shouldn’t the story be old by now? How do we continue to be sucked in by the same story? When you think about it, other sports like basketball and football don’t have many great stories while iconic boxing movie titles just riff off the top of your head. Rocky and Raging Bull are just a couple that come to my dome.
To be honest, in interest of preserving my emotional investment in yet another boxing tale, I wasn’t looking forward to watching T-Rex. Though I love the sport of boxing and boxing films and documentaries, I just didn’t think I could invest in another one. Very few people are bigger fans of Raging Bull than me. Of course I love the first Rocky. The Fighter was great. I’ve seen many Muhammed Ali documentaries and I loved them all.
Then I saw the poster of T-Rex. It features a young girl boxing. Woo-hoo, big deal. She looks like some black girl who thinks she’s big and bad. Don’t they all? I grew up amongst many black girls and they always had an attitude and always wanted to fight boys. Nothing new to me.
In the opening scenes of T-Rex, my first impression was right. Claressa 'T-Rex' Shields has the cockiness of Floyd Mayweather. The competitiveness of a Laila Ali, Muhammed Ali’s daughter. She’s all heart and power, which is fine.
I decided I’d watch a little bit of T-Rex now and a little bit later. I said that to myself several times as I tried to find a good stopping point. But before I knew it, the credits were rolling. I just couldn’t turn it off.
T-Rex doesn’t become stagnant as some documentaries do. The events of Claressa’s potential failure and everyday life reveal themselves in a completely natural and incredibly engaging way. There are open and honest fallouts with her coach. She falls in love. She complains about her mother's cooking. Claressa’s sister simultaneously professes her love for her sister while cursing out a pedestrian because she “don’t play that shit”.
When a story is rolling so well, why would I want to ruin the flow by turning it off? It was a simple documentary simply telling a story with great pacing.
Claressa spends much of the film attempting to become the first female boxer to win a gold medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics - the first year that women were able to compete.
Imagine your sport of choice becoming a world class event. Then imagine yourself at 17 essentially living in a Third World country within the First World nation of the United States - specifically the Midwestern town of Flint, Michigan. A town where tap water looks like ice coffee due to lead contamination.
Now imagine that your livelihood and family depends on you. And your fierce, competitive spirit comes out of a deep desire to never let yourself down.
The stakes would be great wouldn’t they?
The circumstances make Claressa more than just a little black girl who thinks she’s tough. She’s tough because she has to be.
Like all boxing tales, we’re immersed in the inner workings of the boxer’s mind. We see ourselves in the fighter because we’re always fighting for something too. Whether we realize it or not, over and over, especially when things don’t go our way, even if life knocks us down, or knocks us out, or we temporarily throw in the towel, we love the fight.
And just as Claressa says, “As long as I’m boxin’, Ima be okay.”