Touch Gloves (2016): Boxing as Societal Aid (Documentary Review)


It is a sport not known for being kind to its participants.  Long term fighters are damaged, like the United Kingdom’s Frank Bruno for example.  Boxing has been referred to as the
“Gentleman’s Sport” and Touch Gloves infers that it still is. Ray Herbert and his gym use boxing as a societal aid, helping young, and not so young, inner-city kids find an outlet for aggression.

Documentary filmmaker Felipe Jorge has turned out a polished and in-depth look at a gym in Haverhill, MA.  His focus is the gym’s owner/operator Ray Herbert.  Boxing may be the focus here but Ray believes that the sport offers life lessons to those who participate.

The facility caters to both male and female trainees who learn from Herbert and his other trainers. Haverhill Downtown Boxing  is not fancy, nor is it state of the art equipment with fancy bells and whistles.

Ray is quite clear about the goals of his establishment.  It is, first and foremost, there for the city’s youth. Secondary to that is the opportunity for those who show the drive and initiative to box in events like the Golden Gloves.

Participants ages range from  the very young, age 11,  to a 26 year old man who decides to return to the ring after a six year absence.

Herbert is adamant that the kids under his tutelage not be hurt. It is, he says, about learning how to fight and how to improve their  performance.  In essence the gym is teaching youngsters about self control and how to handle aggression through the art of boxing.

Touch Gloves (which is what boxers do before a match)  follows the training of several gym members. It includes coverage of several external matches including the Golden Gloves.  It follows the progression of several boxers and their successes and failures.

It shows that even the most experienced get nervous and forget their training and tune out their trainer’s advice.

Jorge films the entire documentary on his own.  The single camera process works well for the 75 minute long film. The filmmaker also edited the film and has proven to have a deft touch by  putting together a thoughtful and intelligent look at one establishment.

This is the filmmakers second documentary, the first being the 2013  short film The Comic Book Palace. Jorge manages to capture moments that are intense and he seamlessly films action that is incredibly “up close and personal.”

The film also shows both sides of the story.  It focusses on the boxers, and their thoughts, as well as the trainers who push the fighters to learn more about the craft and to win.

Touching Gloves leaves the viewer with a message that  is less about boxing than teaching kids about life and how to live  it.

If there were any complaint at all about the film, it would be with the fighting competition filmed against the a slow tempo operatic chorus.  The fight and the peripheral events around it could have been slowed down to match the music allowing for a balletic feel.

This is a brilliant bit of work considering that it was produced with no budget and “one man and his camera.” (Additional footage was provided on one match by filmmaker Chris Esper.)

Felipe informed us that  in October the film will be shown at the Tryon Film Festival in North Carolina. Jorge has been invited  as a VIP guest for the screening and he will be discussing the film as it is being showcased.


Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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