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ACADEMY AWARD® NOMINATED MORGAN SPURLOCK JOINS ACADEMY AWARD® WINNER ROSS KAUFFMAN FOR THE MIXED MARTIAL ARTS DOCUMENTARY “TOUGH GUYS”

DOCU FILM ON THE ORIGINS OF THE MIXED MARTIAL ARTS COMPETITION PHENOMENON IS SET TO WORLD PREMIERE THURSDAY AT AFI DOCS IN WASHINGTON DC
June 12, 2017 – NEW YORK, NY Academy Award® nominated documentarian Morgan Spurlock (SUPER SIZE ME) teams with fellow Oscar® winning filmmaker Ross Kauffman (BORN INTO BROTHELS) to bring TOUGH GUYS – the story of the origins of the mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting phenomenon – to the big screen. The film is executive produced by Kauffman and Spurlock together with Spurlock’s business partner Jeremy Chilnick.

TOUGH GUYS is directed by two award-winning filmmakers, Henry Roosevelt and W.B. Zullo and produced by the award winning commercial producer Craig DiBiase. This moving and insightful non-fiction cinematic film chronicles the origins of the MMA beginning in Pittsburgh, PA in the early 1980s. Back then, these fights were known as the “tough man,” or “tough guy,” or “battle of the brawlers,” or “battle of the superfighters” matches. These fighting bouts have now achieved multimillion-dollar fight status.

“When I was around 12 years old, my dad took me to my first “tough guy” competition in my hometown of Beckley, WV,” says Spurlock. “And I have to admit, it was one of the greatest things I’d ever seen. So when the opportunity came along for me help tell the story of its origin, I jumped at the chance. TOUGH GUYS is an unbelievable tale about the creation of this one of a kind, man against man, skill against skill, sport of the ages. Films like this are rare discoveries, and the characters behind them are even more incredible. If you like watching guys get punched in the face as much as I do, then you are going to love this movie!”

In 1979, Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri dreamed up a contest pitting barroom bigmouths against wrestlers, martial artists, boxers, bouncers and brawlers, billed as no-holds-barred new type of competitive fighting. When the fights succeeded beyond their wildest expectations, they were swept up in a chain of events that ended in the first mixed-martial arts ban in the nation.

Presented through the untold stories of scrappy brawlers and amateur promoters, TOUGH GUYS chronicles the inception of Caliguri and Viola’s first bouts and the colorful, crazy cast of fighters who made them a hit as well as the politicians who brought it all crashing down. The film brings to life a moment when the national martial arts craze was building to a crescendo as the economies of Pennsylvania steel towns were plummeting to levels of unemployment never seen before or since, breeding desperate men looking for chance to prove their worth and earn some money in the ring.

“Like my previous films, BORN INTO BROTHELS and E-TEAM, TOUGH GUYS is about underdogs striving to achieve the impossible,” states Kauffman. “In TOUGH GUYS, the
underdog is America’s working class who are searching for respect and ultimately a way to survive. When I got involved I didn’t know how timely the story would be.”

TOUGH GUYS will have its world premiere on June 15 at the AFI DOCS Film Festival in Washington, DC.

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ABOUT TOUGH GUYS Told through the colorful stories of scrappy brawlers and amateur promoters, TOUGH GUYS brings to life the birth of mixed martial arts competitions in 1980’s Pittsburgh. The idea to legitimize street fighting by putting it in the ring, brought big money, crowds, copycat competitions and ultimately scrutiny and tighter control. The film is directed by Henry Roosevelt and W.B. Zullo and produced by award winning commercial producer Craig DiBiase. It is executive produced by Oscar winner Ross Kauffman together with Oscar nominated director Morgan Spurlock and his producing partner Jeremy Chlinick.
ABOUT MORGAN SPURLOCK Morgan Spurlock is an Oscar® nominated filmmaker and founder of Warrior Poets, a New York-based production studio. His first film, SUPER SIZE ME, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004, winning Best Directing honors. The film went on to win the inaugural WGA Best Documentary Screenplay award, as well as garner an Academy Award® nomination for Best Feature Documentary. Since then he has directed, produced, and distributed multiple film, television and online projects, including THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD; WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN?; RATS; MANSOME; CNN’s INSIDE MAN; and more.
ABOUT ROSS KAUFFMAN Ross Kauffman is the Academy Award winning Director, Producer and Cinematographer of BORN INTO BROTHELS, winner of the 2005 Academy Award for Best Documentary. He is Co-Director of E-TEAM, a documentary about the high-stakes investigative work of four human rights workers and winner of the 2014 Sundance Cinematography award. He served as Executive Producer on the documentary feature IN A DREAM, which was short-listed for the 2009 Academy Awards and as Consulting Producer on the Academy Award nominated film POSTERGIRL. Ross is a Founder and Creative Director of Fictionless.

 

Tough Guys Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri
Bill Viola Sr. & Frank Caliguri MMA Exhibit
Tough Guys MMA Film Producers
The Producers of Tough Guys MMA Film
Tough Guys MMA poster
Tough Guys Sold Out
MMA history front kick
Flash of Light Kick Dave Jones KO Mike Murray
MMA History interview
MMA History Panel AFI Docs

 

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MMA 1980
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Tough Guys Debut
Godfathers of MMA book
The book that inspired it all
UFC with CV Productions
Godfathers of MMA with Dana White
Washington Post MMA Film
World Premiere Tough Guys MMA Film
MMA History Tough Guys
Tough Guys makes MMA History
MMA History 1
Wrong Place Wrong Time
MMA History 2
The real birthplace of MMA
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Superfighters
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Tough Guy Contest
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Tough Guys MMA Skillset
Skillset Magazine Tough Guys
MMA History birthplace
Tough Guy Contest. The Birthplace of MMA

Rooney McGinely Boxing Club

I recently had the pleasure to sit down with John R. “Jack” McGinley Jr. [Barney McGinley’s Grandson].  Below is an excerpt from the upcoming book “Mixed Martial Madness”

*Photos courtesy of Jack McGinley & Art Rooney Jr.

rooney mcginley boxing club

During the 1930s & 40s the famed Rooney-McGinley Boxing Club put Pittsburgh prizefighting on the map.  Rooney, as in Art Rooney, the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers, partnered with Barney McGinley to promote gladiators on the gridiron and the canvas.  John R. “Jack” McGinley Jr. [Barney’s Grandson] jokes about the Fort Pitt Hotel headquarters, “They had a desk. One drawer with football tickets, the other boxing tickets.”  The gym became “the” place to train for champions like the “Pittsburgh Kid” Billy Conn.

billy conn

Billy was regarded as one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of all time; a trifecta: handsome, athletic and charismatic. “Conn was a family friend, so much so that Art [Rooney Sr.] even stood as Godfather for [Tim Conn] one of his kids,” says McGinley Jr. The public perception of boxers in the 1940s was on an entirely other level.  When asked if Billy Conn was the equivalent of Hines Ward [Pittsburgh Steeler Star] in terms of celebrity status.  McGinley quipped, “No he was more like the Michael Jordan.”  Conn was a beloved national hero, Hollywood celebrity, and household name.  It was a testimony not only to boxings popularity, but the clout associated with its hierarchy.  The night Billy Conn “won and lost” the heavyweight title from Joe Louis in New York, over 24,000 fans sat idle at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh to watch the Pirates play baseball.  The umpire suspended the game so the anxious crowd could listen to the fight over the P.A. system.  At that moment Pittsburgh and most of America stopped. Boxing gripped the nation.

In 1951 Barney’s son Jack McGinley Sr. promoted the first major heavyweight championship in the city’s history, a match between Jersey Joe Walcott and Ezzard Charles at Forbes Field. The bout was Ring Magazine’s “Fight of the Year,” attracting a virtual who’s who of boxing legends; Billy Conn, Fritzie Zivic, Teddy Yarosz, Primo Carnera, Joe Louis, and Rocky Marciano.  My grandfather William Viola also sat ringside that day, rubbing elbows with the greats.  McGinley Jr. recounts “The buzz was everywhere… It was like the first Superbowl.” (Jersey Joe would later fight mixed-fights with pro-wresting stars “Nature By” Buddy Rogers and Lou Thesz.  Most historians concede that these were likely “worked” fights, a frequent way for ex boxing champions past their prime to earn a paycheck).

Jack McGinley Sr. was quoted as saying, “Television killed boxing here.” By the early 1950s fans chose to stay home and watch fights on tv instead of attending them live. Although boxing may have been Barney McGinley’s first love, the writing was on the wall.  He and Rooney turned their attention to football and never looked back; a difficult decision, but ultimately the right call.  Today, the Steelers franchise is a billion dollar entity while boxing never regained the glitz and glamour of its heyday.  As to the future of Pittsburgh boxing, McGinley sadly admits, “Those days are over…I can’t name four [top boxers] today… I think mixed martial arts has a chance.”