Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Hit with Cathy? Million Dollar Baby Is Billed as the Best Boxing Film Ever. but Does It Live Up to the Hype? David Smith Asked the Person Who Should Know

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Hit with Cathy? Million Dollar Baby Is Billed as the Best Boxing Film Ever. but Does It Live Up to the Hype? David Smith Asked the Person Who Should Know

Article excerpt

BOXING transfers easily to celluloid. It's a natural fit, a sport that offers every kind of drama and emotion embracing violence and compassion to honesty and corruption, all played out against backgrounds of gyms drenched in shadow and raucous arenas lit by flashbulbs.

Throughout cinematic history, actors have eagerly sought to drench themselves in blood, sweat and gore, the base matter of boxing. Taking a fighting stance has offered them licence to preen in front of the camera, to show off their pecs, to assume the persona of a tough guy even if they'd never last half a round against a real champion.

The roll call of Hollywood heavyweights who have fought on film includes Errol Flynn, James Cagney, Kirk Douglas, Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Paul Newman, Will Smith, Denzil Washington and Russell Crowe.

To that list, add the name of Hilary Swank, already an Oscar winner for Boys Don't Cry and now favourite to triumph again as the white-trash waitress driven by the dream of ring glory in Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby.

Some respected critics say 74-yearold Eastwood has never done better, either in front of the camera or behind. Recognition in this week's Golden Globe awards lends weight to their opinion.

Those same critics claim the interplay between Eastwood's life-weary trainer, Frankie Dunn, and Morgan Freeman's wise, old, one-eyed exboxer, Scrap, is a classic of its kind.

The judges also say Swank's Maggie Fitzgerald, a toothy tigress with the dewy eyes of a doe, is a triumph. And that the twist in the tale arrives with the winding force of a sucker punch to the solar plexus.

But who better to pass judgment on this portrayal of women's boxing than London's leading woman boxer, world championship challenger Cathy 'The Bitch' Brown?

Standard Sport invited Cathy to a matinee performance at the Apollo West End cinema. And she immediately recognised the Hit Pit, Frankie's gym where fight novice Maggie goes in search of a trainer.

Cathy, who last month proved she can still cut it at the age of 34 by knocking out Viktoria Varga of Hungary inside two rounds, whispered: "Yeah, I've trained in spit and sawdust gyms like that, where the only place for a woman to change into her gear is a cupboard."

She couldn't help a "hah!", either, when the initially reluctant Frankie turns Maggie away with a curt "I don't train girls".

"I've heard that, too," she said. "I've gone to trainers who've told me 'I don't work with women because I don't believe in women boxing'.

"I've also had to deal with the guys like those in the film who taunt Maggie about her breasts. That's happened to me. Guys have come up and said things like 'I bet you're good at sparring in bed'.

"You deal with it by proving yourself-That's what I did and that's what Maggie does. …

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