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Docurama presents
The Last Round: Chuvalo vs. Ali (2003)

"He fights like a washerwoman. He fights like a sissy."
- Muhammad Ali, on George Chuvalo

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: March 30, 2004

Stars: George Chuvalo, Muhammad Ali
Director: Joseph Blasioli

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:39m:26s
Release Date: March 30, 2004
UPC: 767685957431
Genre: documentary


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B+B-B- D+

DVD Review

Unless you're Canadian, journeyman heavyweight George Chuvalo's 1966 bout with Muhammad Ali is unlikely to crack your list of The Greatest's most important or memorable fights; Chuvalo doesn't belong on the short list with Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman. But in many respects this story of a young man rising from the mean streets of Toronto may be the rule, and Ali the exception; Chuvalo could have had class, he could have been a contender. Instead he's got a fighter's nose, some great and brutal memories, a scrapbook of his fifteen minutes, and a place in the history books, if only as an asterisk.

This documentary, produced north of the border, seeks to elevate Chuvalo's story to the level of Ali's, and that doesn't quite work—this isn't When We Were Kings—but it's a pretty fair film nonetheless, about an age in the annals of the sweet science that's never going to come again. Some of the narration is a bit overwrought (e.g., on the boxers: "This fight marked a turning point in both of their lives"), and Chuvalo doesn't have the depth of character or outsized tragedy of Terry Malloy or Jake La Motta. His story is, more than anything else, the odd product of the collision of some unpredictable historical circumstances, almost all of which have to do with his most famous opponent.

This is Ali in transition—shedding the name Cassius Clay for Muhammad Ali, bucking the Louisville syndicate that sought to groom his career, taking a principled stance against the war in Vietnam, leading to him being stripped of his heavyweight title. Ali is such a beloved figure in the popular imagination these days that it can be easy to forget how reviled he was at the time—so much so that no United States city wanted to host an Ali fight, and much of white America refused even to acknowledge that Ali had changed his name. Even Montreal wouldn't have him, for fear of boycotts of their upcoming World's Fair; so Toronto seemed like the only available alternative. The folks at Maple Leaf Gardens had to fill up the seats, so the best willing challenger was Chuvalo, nearly a journeyman fighter whose career was something of a series of might have beens.

Chuvalo is interviewed, as is Angelo Dundee, Ali's trainer; and a galaxy of sports journalists, including Robert Lipsyte, Jimmy Breslin, and Bert Sugar. Chuvalo's camp was real mom-and-pop stuff compared to Ali's—the Canadian was managed by Irv Ungerman the chicken man, as Ali received counsel from Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad. Their 1966 bout, according to the film, fixed Chuvalo in the Canadian popular imagination forever—he's not the Canadian Rocky Marciano, but he wasn't merely Ali's punching bag, either, some sorry heavyweight with a glass jaw who hit the canvas after a couple of rounds. He demonstrated that most Hemingwayesque of qualities, grace under pressure; and even if he never quite grabbed the brass ring (as Sugar says of Chuvalo, "Some people are defined by losses"), this affectionate film about him and his moment in the sun is worth a look.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: A pretty clean transfer, with the sort of raggedy look you'd expect with many of the archival clips. Contrast is a little high, but not too distracting.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: A little too much hiss and room tone, but nothing to come to blows over.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
12 Other Trailer(s) featuring Speaking in Strings, Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back, Dancemaker, Brother's Keeper, Sophie B. Hawkins: The Cream Will Rise, Todd McFarlane: The Devil You Know, Go Tigers!, Keep The River On Your Right, Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy, Lost in La Mancha, See How They Run, Smashing Machine
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Docurama catalog
  2. DVD credits
Extras Review: Brief bios are for the film's producer, director and writer; that and a dozen trailers with the Docurama catalog is all you'll find here.

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

The case for Chuvalo as a boxing legend is more than a little overstated, but this is a smart and affectionate film about a time when boxing wasn't in such a sorry state; there's no shame in Chuvalo never quite emerging from Ali's shadow, for he's surely not the only one.

 


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