Common teams up with Tony Parker, Drew Brees for new boxing documentary

Kelley L Carter

LOS ANGELES — Hollywood’s creative community came out on Tuesday night for the premiere screening of a documentary that aims to deliver hope. They Fight follows a group of Washington, D.C., athletes who are part of the Lyfe Style Boxing training program.

Coached by Walter Manigan, the young men are also mentored by him on their paths to the 2017 Junior Olympics. Centered on boxing phenoms Ragahleak “Peanut” Bartee and Quincy Williams (who have both won numerous national titles), the film is produced by Oscar winner Common, as well as Argent Pictures, which has partners in the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees, the Charlotte Hornets’ Tony Parker, NFL Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks and Michael Finley, who retired a two-time All-Star and NBA champion.

“I just relate to people having a chance,” Common said before making his way into the premiere, which played host to guests such as black-ish creator and Shaft screenwriter Kenya Barris. “And this is a story about young men coming up in a tough area, having to deal with difficult situations and having mentors, black men, who showed them a way of elevating themselves, learning about themselves and fighting through situations. … I’m from Chicago — it’s no different than D.C., Oakland, Detroit, Flint [Michigan] … it’s connected. I felt like [the story of] their struggle and their progress needed to be told.” The film also follows Manigan’s journey toward locating a permanent home for his gym.

Finley, who said the story of They Fight reminded him of his own story, has been quietly producing films for years — Lee Daniels’ 2013 The Butler among them. “I can relate to … coming up in rough neighborhoods, where you have a choice to go the wrong way or the right way,” Finley said at the premiere. “But then you get a mentor in your life who sees something in you that you may not have seen in yourself. … This documentary hits on that, and it’s similar to my upbringing in the basketball world.”

They Fight airs nationwide Nov. 11 on Fox, and it also debuts in select New York City and Los Angeles theaters on Friday.

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