Sports documentaries have been done to death, but when a compelling, relatable tale of athletic redemption meets an expert storytelling team, the result is a surefire hit. Ringside – following two teenage boxers from Chicago’s South Side as their youths and careers take radically different routes – is such a film. Told with immense heart, Kenneth Sims Jr. and Destyne Butler Jr. are spurred on by their demanding yet overwhelmingly loving families in their quest for ultimate discipline and domination of their field.
Each subject becomes an underdog in his own way: Kenneth battles self-doubts and a later start to the sport on his path to professional success, and Destyne’s career is put on hold as he serves four years in prison. Director André Hörmann weaves their stories together so that the highs and lows of each coincide, creating a compelling, honest picture of their gruelling trainings and personal and professional setbacks. Through it all, their families’ honesty, humour, and unending support make all involved immensely sympathetic, always refusing to wallow in the tough times.
While sports are not inherently life-or-death matters, boxing is literally a ticket to a better life for these young men: their training shelters them from the South Side street gangs and drive-by shootings while their winnings could earn them a ticket out. The stakes are incredibly high, but Hörmann and crew never succumb to melodrama. The youths’ own struggles take more focus than the city’s and families’ socioeconomic situations, which loses commentary potential but heightens the emotional impact when both conclusions are reached.
Ringside does not bring much new to the tried-and-tested sports documentary formula, but why mess with such a winning approach? This moving narrative paints an engrossing portrait of determination, grace, and ultimate triumph against all odds, encapsulating the very best of the feel-good genre.
CAST: Kenneth Sims Jr., Kenneth Sims Sr., Destyne Butler Jr., Destyne Butler Sr.
DIRECTOR: André Hörmann
WRITER: André Hörmann
SYNOPSIS: Teenagers Kenneth Sims Jr. and Destyne Butler Jr. pursue their dreams of professional boxing.