Actor Hugh Jackman is the most knowledgeable boxing fan never to have sat ringside for a live prize fight.
Jackman picks eight-division and WBO welterweight beltholder Manny Pacquiao over unbeaten seven-time, five-division beltwinner and WBC counterpart Floyd Mayweather Jr. in what he believes will be a close decision, lists his favorite boxing movie as ‘When We Were Kings,’ and his most favored fighters as Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard.
Known for having burst onto the scene as the action hero Wolverine in the inaugural X-Men series in 2000, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Australian-born Jackman is the son of a former boxing champion in the British Army.
Jackman did not become aware of his father’s pugilistic past until he was “about 16, because he wouldn’t talk to me and my brother about it because we’d fight all of the time,” said Jackman.
“I would talk to him a lot, and we would discuss the Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali fights,” said Jackman. “I watched all of Ray Leonard’s fights, and I’m hoping, one day, to go to the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.”
Jackman offered his assertions during a Wednesday interview with RingTV.com while hyping this weekend’s release of his new movie “Real Steel,” which opens on Friday nationwide.
In the film, Jackman plays a down-on-his luck former professional prizefighter who compiled a modest record of 24-19, with every one of his fights, win or lose, ending in a knockout. So bad off is Jackman, that he literally sells his son for money, only to spend the rest of the film trying to mend their severed ties.
Jackman’s character in the film trains combative robots who have replaced human beings as the fighting’s futuristic form of fisticuffs entertainment, doing so along side his genius son.
Among the treasured opportunities for Jackman was the chance to work alongside Leonard, who orchestrated the the moves of Jackman and the robots as a consultant on the film.
“I have to say that when we promoted this movie this year at the Super Bowl, we went around the ballroom floor where you’ve got all of these journalists from all over America and from all over the world,” said Jackman.
“Walking around with Sugar Ray, I was just watching all of these guys just turn to jelly. It was just amazing to watch.”
Below is the interview.
RingTV.com: I just finished speaking with Sugar Ray Leonard…
Hugh Jackman: Oh, man, how do I follow that? He’s my hero.
RingTV.com: Can you discuss what Sugar Ray meant by saying that you had the good, physically, but that he had to shore up your punching ability — how was that taking instruction from a true boxer?
HJ: At first, I thought that when I went to go to working Sugar Ray, you know? I was a little intimidated to be honest. I kind of thought that I was just going to get the movements down to look like a boxer.
You know, as an actor, you sort of expect that. But right from the beginning, he started to talk to me about the eyes. He was like, “This is how it’s got to be: You’ve really got to find that intensity.”
He told me that when you’re boxing, the emotion is got to come through you, when you’re in the corner, there has to be that connection between you as the trainer and your boxer.
Because I play what Angelo Dundee was to Ray Leonard, you know? I play the corner man. So Sugar Ray talked to me a lot about that as well as the life of a boxer inside and outside of the ring.
He taught me the right way to talk to the fighter. He taught me so much more than I could ever have hoped for.
RingTV.com: As far as the main character or the main robot fighter in the movie, Atom, do you think that Sugar Ray was successful in humanizing the robot by making him more like he was as a fighter?
HJ: You know, that robot — we kind of tell the story that robot boxing is the bigger, the stronger and the more powerful is what people want. Then, along comes this old robot that’s sort of been disregarded.
But he seems to have this heart. He can take a hit, and he was a sparring partner, so he was built to take hits. We train him. So I literally put moves into him. I program the moves into him.
And he ends up having a style which becomes sort of his weapon, which is to be more human, and, he ends up looking more that way. Sugar Ray really kind of put himself into the main character.
By the way, Sugar Ray choreographed every one of those robots. Some of them, he was even more kind of robotic with. He would do it with some having more style. He sort of really just nailed it, I have to say.
RingTV.com: For a boxing movie about your relationship with the young actor who played your son, Dakota Goyo?
HJ: Yeah, Dakota Goyo, who plays my son in the movie, he’s so phenomenal in it. It’s his first big movie, and yet I remember that one of the first scenes that he had to shoot was of him dancing in front of 10,000 people.
The boy really stepped up, and he’s such a great actor and such a great kid on and off the screen. He’s unlike any other kid actor that I’ve ever seen.
He’s got a lot of maturity for his age. But at the same time, he’s not precocious. He’s kind of the heart of the movie, I think.
RingTV.com: I understand that you took your wife and children to see the movie. How did they react?
HJ: Well, I’ll you, my wife elbowed me about three quarters of the way through the movie, and she had a tear running down her cheek. She said, “I thought that this was a robot movie.”
And then, my mother-in-law, she was at the same screening. She loved it. And after that, my kids were there and they were completely entranced.
They were kind of yelling and screaming and they loved the robots, they loved the boy. My daughter loved it just as much as my son did.
The adults got involved with the father and son side of the story. There was really something in it for everyone.
RingTV.com: Are you a boxing fan, and, if so, how long have you been?
HJ: I am a boxing fan, and I have been since I was a kid. My dad was the 1955 army boxing champ, the British army boxing champ. I never found that out until I was 16.
He wouldn’t talk to me and my brother about it because we would fight too much. After that, I talked to him about it a lot. I remember watching every Mike Tyson fight that was on.
We watched all of the Muhammad Ali fights. I tell you that my favorite move is ‘When We Were Kings. Love that movie. I watched all of Sugar Ray’s fights.
I have never been to a fight. That’s one thing that I have to do. I have to go. I was so upset. I was supposed to go to the Mayweather-Shane Mosley fight, the director and I, and we couldn’t because we were shooting.
And so I never been. I so have to fix that. I can’t wait. And I’m hoping one day to go to the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com