'Hands Of Stone' Is A True Story, Following A Long Line Of Boxing Biopics

Robert De Niro must really love boxing. After his Oscar-winning turn in the 1980 classic Raging Bull and his fun role in 2013's Grudge Match, the now 73-year-old actor is stepping into the ring for a third time in Hands of Stone, only this time as a coach, not a fighter. De Niro portrays Ray Arcel, an accomplished 72-year-old trainer who comes out of retirement to help guide promising young boxer Roberto Durán (Edgar Ramirez). Given that boxing movies are often based in reality, does that mean Hands of Stone is a true story?

It is indeed. Arcel was a real trainer, who in 1972 really did come out of retirement to coach Durán, whose hard punching earned him the nickname "Hands of Stone." The film focuses on Arcel training the Panamanian fighter to become welterweight champion of the world, which he accomplished in 1980 by defeating the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard. But that's not the end of the story. Five months later, the pair met in a rematch where Durán infamously forfeited the fight (and the championship) in the eighth round. It's one of the most famous boxing matches in history, but Durán is hardly the only fighter whose notoriety led to a feature film being made about him. Here are some other movies based on true events from inside (and outside) the boxing ring.

Raging Bull

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Yep, De Niro's been in true boxing territory before. He plays Italian American fighter Jake LaMotta, aka "The Raging Bull," in the film.

Cinderella Man

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Russell Crowe portrays Depression Era hero James J. Braddock in this biopic, which is named for the nickname Braddock earned after defeating heavily-favored Max Baer to become the heavyweight champion of the world.

The Hurricane

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In a story that was previously made famous by the Bob Dylan song of the same name, Denzel Washington plays Rubin Carter, a promising middleweight boxer who was wrongfully convicted of murder and spent nearly 20 years in jail. Three guesses as to what Carter's nickname was.

The Fighter

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This film tells depicts the stories of two brothers whose lives are going in opposite directions. Mark Wahlberg is Micky Ward, an Irish American fighter from Massachusetts who becomes the welterweight champion. Christian Bale, in an Oscar-winning role, is his brother Dicky Eklund, a former boxer who is now a crack addict and is struggling to get his life together.


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I probably don't have to tell you who Will Smith plays in this film, which is based upon perhaps the most famous athlete of all-time.

Hands of Stone is not the first boxing film to be based on a true story, or the first to sport the nickname of its subject as its title, or even the first to star Robert De Niro. But given the pedigree of the films that came before it and its intriguing story, it might end up being one of the best.

Images: The Weinstein Company