The subjects of these films are not boxers of the quality of the young, dazzling Mike Tyson or the legendary Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson, or Joe Louis but journeyman fighters who’ve managed through sheer effort to win just a little more often than they’ve lost. Poor Micky isn’t even, by nature, aggressive; he’s far from the “raging bull” counterpuncher Jake LaMotta of Martin Scorsese’s film, so desperate in his ring stratagems that even his victories have an air of the haphazard and the tentative. (...) Like Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby (2004), a similar amalgam of gritty pathos, unabashed sentiment, and very good boxing footage that earned accolades for its principal actors, Eastwood and Hilary Swank, The Fighter is, if not a champion film for all time, a very good, poignant, and commendable expression of its era—postindustrial working-class urban America, bereft of history as it is bereft of jobs, strong unions, pride in one’s work. Lowell, Massachusetts, is the ideal setting for this modest fairy tale of an underdog who finally comes out on top—if but temporarily, and with what cost to him, no one quite knows or seems to care. Boxing may be cruel and pitiless to its most ardent practitioners, but bountiful to its gifted chroniclers.