The best Boston movie and the best boxing movie I’ve seen lately is 12 minutes long and available free online. Entitled “I Beat Mike Tyson,” this quietly affecting mini-documentary by Joshua Z. Weinstein tells the story of Kevin McBride, a big, slow heavyweight from Dorchester (by way of Clones in County Monaghan) who had one shining moment in the ring, an upset victory over Mike Tyson in 2005.
McBride caught Tyson at the tail end of a steep decline, when he was no more than a cartoonish parody of the champion he had been in his prime, but, still, defeating one of the premier bogeymen of our time was a journeyman’s dream come true. McBride just kept coming through Tyson’s increasingly desperate punches and fouls and made him quit. “One punch can change the chapters of anybody’s story,” says McBride in the film, “and my story is that I beat Mike Tyson.”
That story would be simpler if moments after having his wrapped hand raised in victory on that memorable night McBride had been seized by Valkyries and taken up to Valhalla to quaff mead with fellow bruisers for all eternity. But real lives do not proceed in the neat upward arcs favored by Hollywood. Weinstein captures the aftermath of McBride’s apotheosis with a few deftly economical strokes. He has a sweet life in a modest house with a devoted wife and two scene-stealing young children, but he still feels the urge to fight, and his imposing size and the victory over Tyson make him eligible for beatings at the hands of better boxers.
His wife, Danielle, asks an unanswerable question: “You think that I think it’s worth you getting knocked out like that, for what we end up with after you fight?” But McBride’s not doing it just for the money. Boxing orders his existence, infusing it with meaning and purpose.
So McBride comes back and gets knocked around, and the largely unrealized possibilities for accruing money and respect raised by his moment of triumph recede ever farther from his grasp. He knows that the damage is mounting. “I want to be around for the kids so at least they can understand me,” he says as he contemplates retiring. “They can hardly understand me now.”
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