'Ringside' Review: A riveting tale of two teen boxers in a town riddled with racism and extreme violence

'Ringside' Review: A riveting tale of two teen boxers in a town riddled with racism and extreme violence
Destyne Butler, Jr. (Chicago Boxing Film)

Some kids are destined to be great. With a bit of fortune, coupled with immense skill and the realization that they are talented enough to make it big, they're set to coast their way to success. German filmmaker André Hörmann captures every bit of this detail in 'Ringside' a nine-year chronicling of the tale of two prodigies.

For Destyne Butler Jr and Kenneth Sims Jr, boxing glory and fame was a dream. And like most kids, they dreamt of making it big in that world of contact sport. Butler managed to garner some attention in the ring even before hitting his teens and he used his fame to announce his plans of becoming a decorated competitor.  Sims Jr and his father Kenneth were a duo bent on making their opportunity count when the former stepped into the ring. His intent to don the gloves and pummel his way to winning in the 2012 Olympics was a bold statement. But sometimes destiny decides to throw a punch or a hook and for Sims, that was essentially a knockout bout that put him out of the Olympics contention.

The Showtime documentary focuses mainly on the Chicago community where the kids grew up, their relationship with their folks, and the tale of two juniors who dream of becoming the best boxers. Sims is more of a focused kid, quite to himself in a town riddled with racism and extreme violence. His home away from home is the gym where he trains with his dad who's much like the Tick Wills to Jake Gyllenhaal's Billy Hope in 'Southpaw'. Butler reminds us of the muscled robots in 'Real Steel' and something of a teen sensation. Except, when he's shown, he's actually in prison. 

Kenny Sims, Sr. and Kenny Sims, Jr. (Photo credit: Chicago Boxing Film)


By now, the audience will have understood that life's dealt cruel blows to these kids. Sims, in addition to dealing with missing the Olympic berth also has to deal with the ills of the community. Butler, on the other end, is hard at work in a prison boot camp charged with residential burglary. His return to the ring is delayed and he has a four-year sentence to serve. When he does emerge out, he's 22. But in his words, "I've got to do what I gotta do." Their fathers are their guiding lights and that's a blessing. 

Butler's expelling from the boxing competition especially after being a victim of legal issues, beratement by mostly white officers feels quite relatable in today's situation, especially with what's happening in the US at the moment. Butler admits that he was treated unfairly. By the end of the documentary, both boxers are still out there, rolling with the punches, doing what they love, and being the stars they were destined to be, climbing the rung one bout a time. 

Hörmann, in the nine years of filming, gives a transparent picture of how life was for these kids in the early stages of their lives and careers. It wasn't their fault they were in a place that had odds stacked against them, but they were most definitely casualties of war that happened back in the day. 'Ringside' is riveting and the 93-minute-length of the film is worth it to know more about the sport, the passion of these two kids, and their heartening journey to where they are today. 

'Ringside' premieres Friday, June 12 at 8:30 pm ET/PT on Showtime. 

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