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Filmmakers behind Knockout Scousers premiere new ‘greats’ boxing film in Liverpool

1 month ago

Filmmakers behind Knockout Scousers premiere new ‘greats’ boxing film in Liverpool
Company of Kings

The filmmakers behind Knockout Scousers, which followed three Liverpool boxers in the run-up to the London Olympics, are premiering their latest boxing documentary in the city this week.

In The Company of Kings features exclusive interviews with legends of the sport including Larry Holmes, Bernard Hopkins, Earnie Shavers and Michael Spinks,

Director Steve Read, his producer partner Robert Douglas who comes from Speke, and their third partner Rob Alexander spent two years pre-Covid travelling the US, meeting and talking with eight former boxing world champions.

The result is a powerful, incredibly intimate portrait of their lives, their struggles and resilience which will be released worldwide on April 30 through Amazon Prime.

Before that, the film will have its UK premiere at FACT on Thursday April 25, following on from a hugely successful US premiere in Philadelphia earlier this month.

The initial idea for In The Company of Kings came after Robert, who also narrates the film, suffered a racially-motivated attack in Liverpool.

Company of Kings
Company of Kings

Steve expalined:

“He ended up losing his eye as a consequence so that’s how the film starts. He suffered a terrible mental health trauma so the film was a way of picking him up off the canvas and it basically turned into a boxing pilgrimage.

“The early 70s in Liverpool was a tough place to be when you’re a mixed race guy and Muhammad Ali was someone who gave him strength and would help get him through the day.  

“We went to meet these heroes that he and I looked up to growing up and then the film just found a life of its own.

“There’s a theme of struggle and hope which runs through In The Company of Kings. It’s about more than boxing, it’s human stories as well,” adds Steve.

The two already had connections in the boxing world after making Knockout Scousers, which was screened on C4 and followed Tasha Jonas, Tom Stalker and Jazza Dickens in the lead-up to the Olympics in 2012.

But it still took a lot of determination to gain access to the legends on their wish list.

“Robert especially does have really good contacts, but it’s also down to perseverance. If it was easy, everyone would do it, but you can’t give up if you’re going to do these kind of things. It’s fun making it, and it’s also really hard work. When you see it on the big screen, and you get the audience reaction, that’s where the reward comes.”

Steve says their journey took them to some of the most deprived, dangerous places in America which have so often been the brutal breeding grounds for the world’s greatest boxers.

Company of Kings

Bernard Hopkins, undisputed World Middleweight Champion, is quoted in the film saying:

“It’s hard to fight with silk underwear on.”

“Bernard Hopkins comes from the projects in Philadelphia and that’s the toughest place I’ve ever been to, guys shooting up fentanyl in the streets,” says Steve. “Boxers do come from some tough places 99% of the time, that’s what he says, and you need to show that so I didn’t hold back on it.”

Spending time with Larry Holmes at his home in Pennsylvania was a particular highlight for Steve, who ranks the man known as the Easton Assassin in the top three boxers of all time.

“He’s an absolute hero of mine. We got in contact with him through Carl King, Don King’s stepson, and he didn’t want paying for it which was amazing, The idea was we’d get 10 minutes with him and we ended up spending the whole day there, we had lunch together, went to his house, and went to the projects where he grew up.”

With In The Company of Kings about to be released worldwide, Steve says they are already planning the next eras.

“This film is centred around what I would term the golden age of boxing but we’ve got so much great footage and I think the story moves on. Part two would be the demise of boxers like Larry Holmes and the rise of Mike Tyson and then it would be demise of Mike Tyson and rise of Tyson Fury and people like that, so there are definitely three parts to it.”

In The Company of Kings premieres at FACT on Thursday with a Q&A.

Find out more info about the Company of Kings here.

Find all the latest Liverpool news here.

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