Launched on the Olympic Channel, The People’s Fighters is a feature-length documentary that takes a close-up look at Cuba’s seminal boxing culture. As well as telling the story of the nation’s phenomenal success in the ring, the film examines the challenges Cuban boxing faces today, and reveals how the emergence of local talent is paving the way for future success.
The second film in the Olympic Channel's Five Rings Films documentary series, the 87-minute feature casts the spotlight on the careers of three-time Olympic heavyweight gold medallists Teófilo Stevenson and Félix Savón, and includes archive footage and interviews with other Cuban Olympic medal winners.
The People’s Fighters is directed and narrated by acclaimed filmmaker Peter Berg (whose credits include Friday Night Lights and Patriots Day) and produced exclusively by Hollywood heavyweight Frank Marshall, whose credits include the Jason Bourne, Jurassic World and Indiana Jones franchises.
Available to all audiences via olympicchannel.com and its mobile apps, the film received its TV premiere in the USA and will get its first airing in Europe on 29 June.
Punching above its weight
Over the past 50 years, and despite its relatively small population of only 11 million, Cuba has produced more Olympic boxing medallists than any other country, winning 73 medals in the sport in that time, 38 of them gold. That success was spearheaded by Stevenson, who once famously turned down a million-dollar offer to fight Muhammad Ali and turn professional, choosing instead to continue fighting for his beloved homeland. Also at the forefront were Savón and the man behind their greatest achievements, legendary coach Alcides Sagarra Carón.
“As a champion, Teófilo was the greatest, an example to all of us,” said Savón at the time of Stevenson’s death in 2012. “When he stopped fighting he taught me his tricks, and they were the secret of my success.”
Filmed in Havana and the United States, The People’s Fighters features contributions from Savón, Sagarra and the USA’s former world champion and Olympic gold medallist Oscar De La Hoya.
“As an American, I wanted to make money after becoming an Olympic gold medallist, to give my family a better life,” said De la Hoya. “But not in Cuba – they’re not built that way. Cuban fighters don’t think about how many millions they can have. It’s all about making your country proud. That’s the Cuban way.”
Bringing Olympic stories to life
Five Rings Films is a series of incisive and entertaining documentaries directed by some of the biggest names in film from around the world. It began in February 2018 with the launch of The Nagano Tapes, which told the inspiring story of the Czech Republic’s shock men’s ice hockey gold medal triumph in 1998, the first Olympic Winter Games at which NHL players were allowed to compete. Future films include the story of Manu Ginobili and his part in the rise of Argentinean basketball.
“Bringing Olympic stories to life through great filmmaking is a goal of our Five Rings Films signature documentary series,” said Mark Parkman, General Manager of the IOC’s global Olympic Channel. “Peter Berg is not only an acclaimed filmmaker, but also a passionate boxing fan and he brings a personal perspective to the making of The People’s Fighters that is sure to resonate with fans around the world.”