Synopsis by Paul Brenner
Gladiator is the kind of boxing movie that goes that extra mile -- a self-loathing boxing saga that relishes in bare-knuckled sucker punches, illegal eye-rubs, and gentlemen boxers who obey the Marquis of Queensbury rules by drop-kicking opponents when the are not only down but unconscious. James Marshall plays Tommy Riley, a Windy City high school student conned into participating in the illegal underground boxing arenas of the South Side of Chicago. In high school, Tommy was a prize boxer, and this skill comes in handy when his Father (John Heard) runs up a large gambling debt. When a sleazy boxing manager (Robert Loggia) spots Tommy defending himself during recess, he offers him quick money to box. Tommy, although he hates the sport, readily agrees, thinking his winnings will help his father pay off his debts. He quickly comes under the thumb of unscrupulous boxing promoter Horn (Brian Dennehy), who is involved in fight-fixing and dirty fighting. Manipulating the odds and exploiting his boxers make Horn rich and more venal. In the rancid environment, Tommy befriends another fighter, Lincoln (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a black fighter who sees fighting as his way out of poverty. Inevitably, Horn arranges for the two friends to duke it out in the ring together.
alcoholism, boxing, family, friendship, gambling, gangster, on-the-run, prizefighter, sports