The Reluctant Fighter (1979)
( Theme music playing )
I'm looking for Tony Banta... the boxer.
Would you settle for Tony Banta... the bum?
He's over there.
Hey, wait, wait, wait.
You coming into my garage, you gonna leave me a dollar deposit.
That's okay, as long as I get it back.
Hey, Vince, what are you doing here?
Hey, guys, this is Vince from my gym.
Hey, Vince, these are my friends, uh, Elaine, Alex and Bobby.
Hi. Hi, there. Hey.
Nice to see you.
I got something personal I want to talk to you about.
Hey, Vince, I'll get my dirty laundry out of the locker this weekend.
That's not what I want to talk to you about, but, of course, it would be nice.
Hey, come on, we're going to go to breakfast, Tony.
You want to come?
No, I'll catch up later.
See you later.
Hey, so what's up?
I just found out that Benny Foster wants to make a comeback.
Are you kidding me? Benny Foster's an old man.
What does he want to come back for and get beat?
Hey, he used to be champ.
Maybe he's still good.
Anyway, he's not going to challenge any top contenders right away.
He'll fight some unknowns first.
I don't believe this... Benny Foster fighting unknowns.
It's a shame, Vince, a lousy shame.
How low will this guy sink?
He wants to fight you.
Let me get you some coffee, man, huh?
Tony, you don't understand.
You get a chance to fight Benny Foster.
You sure you got this straight? Why me?
Look, his manager comes over to my gym.
He says they're looking for a young fighter who hits hard, moves well, wins occasionally and you were the sixth one that came to my mind.
Wow, me and Benny Foster.
I guess this could be like a big opportunity for me, huh?
Sure, look at all the publicity...
Newspapers, radio, television.
They're going to televise the fight?
Where... where did you hear that?
I thought you just said that.
No, I just meant the news.
Man, me getting a chance at one of the greatest fighters ever.
Boy, it's kind of like a painter getting a chance to beat up on Rembrandt.
You're one lucky guy, Tony.
Someone's got to make the arrangements.
So what do you say, Tony?
Can I be your manager?
Vince, it's me and you.
Tony, this is great.
This is the greatest chance you got in your life.
Okay, Vince, thanks.
Me and Benny Foster.
I got to tell someone.
I got to tell someone or I'll bust.
It can wait.
This is it!
This is where Benny Foster works out.
Oh, I'm kind of disappointed.
This is the ex-champ's gym.
I thought it would smell different or something.
Be a little classier.
Are you kidding?
The stalls in the bathroom...
They got doors.
Oh, well, that's classy.
These must be the reporters.
My first press conference... man, am I nervous.
Hey, Bobby, you must get nervous sometimes when you go on stage.
What do you do to get out of it?
I got this little loosening-up exercise I do.
Gets all the tension out of me.
You want me to show you?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Okay, here we go.
( Gargles )
I think I'll stick with nervous.
Hey, Tony, want to punch the bag, loosen up?
No, I'm all dressed up.
I'll get sweaty.
No, come on, it'll do you good. Come on.
Okay, just once.
I'll hold it.
He's right... I do feel better.
( Weakly ): I told you you would.
Tony, I don't know what you're so nervous about for, you know.
The guy is 38 years old.
You're going to drop him easy.
I don't want to drop him easy.
Cause he don't deserve to be embarrassed.
I mean, not only was he a great fighter, he was one of the nicest guys to ever wear a cup.
I want this guy to do good.
Tony, I don't know much about boxing, but, uh, generally speaking, I mean, the better he does, the worse you do.
Hmm, that's something to think about.
Hey, we make a great team, don't we?
I mean, with my muscle and his brains, we can't lose.
It's the other way around, Vince.
Listen, I'm going to need some help in Tony's corner, fight night.
Now, any of you guys ever work a fight?
I was married.
VINCE: Hey, champ!
TONY: That's him, that's Benny Foster.
That's him! Will you look at the chicks he's got with him?
ALEX: He may not be as out of shape as we thought.
Oh, you guys kill me.
I mean, yore really jumping to conclusions, you know that?
For all you know, those women might be his manager and his trainer.
His accountant and his lawyer?
His Tuesday and his Wednesday.
This is it.
Go get 'em, Tiger. Go get em.
This is Tony Banta.
Tony, this is the great...
I know who this is.
Man, it's great to see you again, champ. Gee.
Have we met before?
Yeah, at your fight with Martini.
I, uh... I got a bad memory.
Oh, you remember. You fought him in the Garden.
Middleweight, five-ten, good left hook...
I remember him, but I just can't remember you.
Oh... well, it was the night of the fight.
I was sitting in the audience.
When you came out, you looked right at me.
I slapped you on the back.
That was you?
Hey, glad to see you again.
Hey, I want you to meet my friends, Cathy and Rita.
Well, uh... this here is my friend Elaine.
Tony is my first middleweight.
Hey, uh, sweet kid.
Oh, I finally made it.
Mistaken for cheap.
Hey, should we get started?
Sure! Oh, thanks for asking!
Okay, everybody, let's get seated.
Gotta get this started here.
You know, I never did like press conferences.
I never was too good at these kind of things.
Anyway, as you know, I'm making a comeback, coming out of retirement, and you're probably wondering why, uh...
"Why is the old man going to fight again?
He's over the hill; he's too old."
Is it because I miss the money, fame... excitement?
But there's more to it than that, really.
See, I wouldn't have the guts to make a comeback like this if it wasn't for the inspiration of a brave little guy, Brian Sims.
Hey, Brian, come on in here.
Everybody wants to meet you.
You see, a couple of months ago, Brian writes me a letter saying that I'm his hero... his hero.
Asked me to send an autographed picture to him at the hospital.
We spent a lot of time together those weeks before his operation, and he made it.
He pulled through like a champ.
But now he's got another operation, a real tough one.
Brian knows what's ahead of him, and he's scared.
He's a gutsy fighter, though. He's tough.
He's gonna give it his best shot.
And I'm coming back to give it my best shot.
I'm going to fight this fight for Brian.
Oh, uh... I almost forgot.
My opponent, uh, Tony Banta.
Brian, meet Mr. Banta.
Pleased to meet you, Mr. Banta.
LOUIE: Hey, Banta!
You made the afternoon paper.
Nice shot of the wheelchair, ain't it?
This writer says maybe you got a chance of beating Foster.
Wouldn't that be something?
Beating the ex-champ?
Crushing the comeback of one of America's most beloved athletes and breaking the heart of a sick little kid all in one fight.
Whoo, I bet you're excited.
That's it... I know what I got to do.
Don't try to talk me out of it, either.
I gave it a lot of thought.
I'm going to give that kid my kidney.
No, I'm serious. I thought about this and I know what I got to do.
I can get along without a kidney anyway.
Sure, you've come this far without a brain.
Hey, Tony, he's already got a donor.
He doesn't need your kidney.
You think he needs anything else?
I, for one, am glad you're fighting this fight, because every time I bet against you, it's like a trip to the bank.
In fact, you furnished my living room.
I look over at my sofa, I see the Rodriguez fight.
I look over at my armchair, I see the Jefferson fight.
My little end tables are the Camillio brothers.
If it wasn't for your career, I'd be living in a bare apartment.
This fight with Foster is going to be a 23-inch color TV with remote control.
I love you, you little gold mine, you.
Jeff, come here.
What do you want, Louie?
Take cab 316 over to my bookie.
Put down... Mmm, mmm, mmm...
$400 on Benny Foster.
JEFF: I'm on my way.
Wait a minute, wait a minute, let's make that a 27-inch.
Ma's eyes ain't what they used to be.
$500 on Foster.
Don't let him get to you, Tony.
You know how when you turn over one of those rocks and you see those slimy, crawly things underneath?
You know, the kind that make you go "yuck"?
Louie makes those things go "yuck."
Aw, man, I don't know.
You know, I'm fighting since I'm 14 years old.
Nobody ever paid any attention to me.
I finally get a fight where people will notice me, and everybody wants me to lose.
I even want me to lose.
LOUIE: Wait a minute.
What'd you just say?
You want to lose?
This changes everything.
Now, follow me here.
We all know that when a loser wants to win, naturally he loses.
It's a law of the universe.
Banta's proven this time and time again.
But... when a loser wants to lose... now, now, pay attention because this gets real tricky.
If a loser wants to lose, since he is a loser, the only way that he can stay a loser is to win.
Banta, the loser in question, wanting as he does to lose, has to win.
As perverse and unnatural as this sounds, I have to bet on Banta.
Jeff, Jeff, 316, come in, come in.
Put the money on Banta.
That's it. I'm starting to think the only thing I can do is pull out of this fight while I still can.
I'm no quitter, but I just ain't got the heart for this fight anymore.
Hey, now, Tony, now, listen to me.
This is a great opportunity for you.
You may never have another chance like this.
No, no, no, let me finish.
Think of those boxers, huh?
All those guys out there over the years, fighting their hearts out because they love the sport.
You know, if you don't fight this fight, and give it all you got, you don't belong in the company of those men.
You don't deserve to call yourself a boxer.
You know, you're right, Alex.
You're absolutely right.
You know, I'm going in that ring and I'm going to give it everything I got.
And I'm going to win that fight.
Put the money on Foster.
( Cheers, shouts of encouragement )
MAN: Come on, Banta!
( All shouting at once )
You got him, you got him!
You're looking real good!
( Crowd cheering )
Nice shot, Tony!
Put one over here, put one over here!
Here we go! Here we go!
Attaboy, Tony, Attaboy!
You're doing good!
You got him! You got him!
Looking good, Tony. Looking...
( bell rings )
( Applause )
Hey, Tony, Tony, you're doing great.
Yeah, you're showing them real class, class.
You're killing him, you're killing him.
Go after that eye. Work on his eye.
Yeah, just keep after him. You keep after him.
I think he's in trouble. He's going to go down.
Could we please talk about something else?
There's no rule that says you got to talk about boxing between rounds.
Okay, okay, do you think we should get out of NATO?
I just wish he wasn't here.
You know who... the kid.
Last round, I could feel his eyes on me.
Tony, Tony, the kid understands boxing.
He expects you to be in there fighting your hardest.
( Buzzer sounds )
Cover yourself! Don't let up!
Get your guard up! Keep your guard up!
He may throw something at you.
( Bell rings )
( Cheering )
( All shouting )
No mercy, Tony!
Six... Seven... Get up.
Eight... nine... ten. You're out.
They know who did it.
Okay... ( clamoring )
Everybody, no more questions.
That's enough questions for tonight.
You want to ask Tony anything else, hail his cab.
That way he gets to put it on the meter.
Hey... congratulations! What a fight!
You made a name for yourself tonight.
I think I'm leaving.
You're going to bum me out.
Alex, man, I just don't feel much like celebrating.
You want to see the kid?
Oh, the perfect end to a perfect day.
No, it might do you some good to talk to him, that's all.
No, I don't think I could handle it, Al.
I'm not saying it would be easy, but it could help.
You need someone on whose mercy to throw yourself.
Maybe you're right.
I would like to tell him to his face how sorry I am.
If he'll come?
Yeah, he's right next door in Benny's dressing room.
I'll talk to him.
Thanks, Alex. All right?
I appreciate it.
( Chuckles )
( Wheels squeaking )
Boy, am I ever glad to see you here.
Thanks, I'm glad to be here.
( Knock on door )
You wanted to see me, Mr. Banta?
Yeah, Brian, come on in.
How's the champ doing?
He still can't count to three, but he'll be okay.
Yeah, well, I just wanted you to know it was a lucky punch.
No, no, it wasn't.
Yeah, it was.
He hurt me good... Look at these bruises.
I'm sore all over.
You knocked him cold.
I'm real sorry about that.
Benny's a class guy, and I'm as sorry as you are to see his career come to an end.
Benny wouldn't have wanted me to go out there and fight this halfway.
I mean, look, I don't get that many fights.
I mean, I can't even make a living at it.
I got to drive a cab at night.
Benny lost to a hack?
Yeah, so, like, this was the biggest opportunity I ever got in my life, you know.
So I went out and I gave it my all. You know.
But right now, the fight means nothing compared to you forgiving me.
I mean... you know, when I was a little kid, there were boxers I idolized, boxers I hated.
And I never thought I'd grow up to be the kind of boxer some little kid would hate.
Come on, what do you say?
Give me a break, can't you forgive me?
Where'd you get a punch like that!
What'd you hit me with?
The ball bearings from my wheelchair.
Hey, kid, you may not understand this, but I'm kind of glad you did it.
I think I feel better.
Come here and I'll make you feel terrific.
Wait a minute, kid, wait a minute...
You knocked out my fighter... Now I got no hero.
You know how hard it is to get a fighter to come to the hospital?
We keep getting singers.
If I stop running, you'll hit me again.
You catch on fast for a cabdriver.
Hey, kid, wait a minute.
Maybe I could be your fighter.
Nah, I've seen your record.
Maybe I'll take some tips from you and I'll win more.
I doubt it.
Are you serious?
Sure I am.
You mean you'd come visit me and let me watch you work out at the gym and stuff like that?
It could be arranged.
And you'd come to the hospital when I have my operation?
You bet, I'll be there.
It's a deal.
Okay, it's a deal.
I'll stick around until you lose one.
That could be weeks.
TONY: Hey, everybody!
Hey, what do you say?
So, how do you like the Sunshine Cab Company?
How soon can we leave?
So where have you guys been?
I took Brian to his first hockey game.
He didn't like it, though.
Too much skating between fights.
Banta... you crumb.
Your little escapade in the ring cost me a color television.
But I'm warning you, Banta, I'm going to get that set, and I'm going to get it from you because from now on, your messages are going to cost more, your phone calls are going to cost more.
You might as well just hang a sign around your neck right now that says, "shake me down."
Who's the kid?
Brian, this is Louie De Palma.
I don't want to interrupt you, I like what you're saying.
So you think that Banta's a bum, too, huh?
Yeah... how about a shake on it?
Better yet, a hug.
( Snickers )
( Chuckles )
Now, that's what I call a good kid.
( Chuckles )
How come you didn't punch him like you punched me?
I did better... I got his wallet.
( Theme music playing )
WOMAN: Night, Mr. Walters.
( Walters mutters )