Over the years, boxing films have carved their own niche in the sports genre, and this is true especially for Indian cinema. With adrenaline-pumping action sequences inside the boxing ring, many films have celebrated the sport, whilst keeping us hooked with awe-inspiring journeys.
But there are a few films that have gone the extra mile to retain authenticity. While actors such as Farhan Akhtar in Toofaan (2021) have trained to play professional boxers, some films have even gone on to rope in real-life boxers to fight in the ring.
Priyanka Chopra, for instance, fought real boxers in Mary Kom (2014), the biopic of the veteran Indian boxer who has won eight World Championships. The latest boxer to join this list is Mike Tyson, who will be making his Indian cinema debut in Vijay Deverakonda's Liger. With the film hitting the theatres today, let's take a look at some of the boxers, who have made their shift from the real to reel ring.
The former heavyweight champion, who hung his boots in 2005, has made headlines many times in the last decade, thanks to his career in entertainment. His extraordinary skills on the boxing ring, which have been proved by numerous championships, earned him the name "The Baddest Man on the Planet". Having acted in films for close to 15 years now, one of Tyson's finest cameos arguably has to be in the 2009 film The Hangover.
While he has a few projects lined up in Hollywood, Liger marks Mike Tyson's first appearance in Indian cinema. The film sees Vijay Deverakonda's Liger go head to head with the boxing giant.
Ritika Singh, who won many hearts with her last outing Oh My Kadavule (2020), was a boxer before she made her entry into films. The actress is said to have trained in Karate at the age of three, later going on to take up boxing. And it was in Sudha Kongara's Irudhi Suttru that Singh got to depict both her acting and boxing prowess. A national-level boxing professional, Singh caught the attention of Kongara during the film's production. The filmmaker was looking for a boxer who also had acting chops. And that's how Singh was roped in as the female lead of the 2016 film, which was released as Saala Khadoos in Hindi.
Her performance as an aspiring boxer in the film went on to fetch her a special mention at the 63rd National Film Awards. Mumtaz Sorcar, who played Singh's elder sister in the bilingual had also received professional training in boxing. She trained under the Bengal Amateur Boxing Federation before she took to acting in 2010. After her debut as a reel boxer, Singh went on to star in different Tamil films, including a horror comedy. She has forayed into the Telugu industry with films such as Guru (2017) and Neevevaro (2018), and currently has four Tamil projects in hand.
Vijender Singh made his debut in Bollywood with Fugly in 2014. Long before he entered films, Singh rose to fame by becoming the first Indian boxer to win an Olympic medal. He won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and further went on to kickstart his journey in the entertainment industry by appearing in television shows. All of this, while he continued to win several medals at the Commonwealth games.
In his Bollywood entry Fugly, in which he stars alongside Kiara Advani, Singh plays the son of Haryana's CM, a nice-hearted young man who always gets into trouble because of his pranks. The actor has not signed any films following Fugly.
Playing the antagonist in Mukkabaaz (2017), Deepak Tanwar is remembered for landing a heavy punch on actor Vineet Kumar Singh in the film's climax sequence. Deepak Tanwar is a national-level champion who has won medals at Junior National Championships and Youth National Games.
He became popular for captaining the Maratha Yoddhas in the first season of Super Boxing League in 2017. And it was through Neeraj Goyat, fellow boxer, and actor, that Tanwar got a chance to act in Mukkabaaz. After his brief stint with Bollywood, the boxer who announced that he had no plans to become a full-time actor, returned to the real boxing ring.
The title holder of 'India's most promising boxer of 2008', Neeraj Goyat is a pro at both boxing and entertainment. He is known to be one of the first Indian boxers to have made it to the WBC (World Boxing Council) World Rankings. After having appeared in a handful of television shows, Goyat made his Bollywood debut along with Deepak Tanwar in Mukkabaaz.
But unlike his friend, Goyat continued to act, and even went on to star in Toofaan. The film saw him play a rival boxer, fighting Farhan Akhtar's Aziz Ali in the semi-finals of a National Championship. Goyat is also said to have trained Akhtar for the film. Following Toofaan, the boxer also went on to train actors such as Ram Charan for RRR and Varun Tej for Ghani.
Sukhjeevan Singh Dhillon switched from boxing to acting by making his debut in the 2022 Varun Tej-starrer Ghani. The film traces the trials and tribulations of an amateur who aims to become a national-level boxer. While Ghani created huge expectations, the film failed at the box office. Dhillon is now reportedly eyeing a debut in Bollywood.