Film Review: Rocky Ros Muc

The story of boxer Sean Mannion, who rises from a rural Irish village to compete for a world title fight. Best for dedicated fans.
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Over a 15-year career as a pro, Sean Mannion built a reputation as a tough, fast fighter. In 1984, he became the first Irishman to compete for a world title in almost 40 years.

Rocky Ros Muc follows Mannion's career from his start in a rural Irish village to his years in an Irish expatriate community in Boston. Buttressed by interviews with family and friends, it contains extensive video clips of his most notable fights.

Born in 1956, Mannion grew up in Ros Muc, which neighbors describe as a very poor area of small farmers. He joined a boxing club run by Mike Flaherty, and became consumed by the sport. By the age of 17, he was the county and provincial champion, then won the All Ireland Junior Title.

When he was 21, Mannion moved to Boston, as did many from his area. He settled into a tightknit Irish community in Dorchester during a time of racial conflict. Irish gangs, including a group led by Whitey Bulger, controlled drugs and crime through violence.

Mannion's life intersected with gang members, like Pat Nee, also from Ireland, but he was also known and admired by future Boston mayor Marty Walsh. Both Nee and Walsh are interviewed here.

In 1977, Mannion signed a contract with Jimmy Connolly, one that gave his manager almost half of his earnings. He began fighting professionally the next year, his brother Paddy in his corner along with Connolly. The highlight of his career was his fight in 1984 against the Jamaican Jimmy McCallum for the WBA Light Heavyweight title at Madison Square Garden.

Unfortunately, Mannion cut his eye during training and was unable to spar for weeks leading up to the fight. But nobody loves an underdog like the Irish, so despite the fight's outcome, Mannion was greeted as a hero when he returned to Ireland.

Mannion, who speaks mostly Gaelic in the documentary, admits to the difficulty he faced transitioning out of the boxing world after he retired in 1993. He also acknowledges a drinking problem.

Director Michael Fanning's view of Mannion is respectful but guarded. We learn next to nothing about the fighter's wife, for example, or why he left Ireland ten months after moving there from Boston. The documentary is filled with beautiful landscapes that give a sense of Mannion's background without explaining much about his personality.

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