Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Fighters (1992)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

A narrator explains the attraction of the boxing world. How it is older and darker. How the boxer fights on behalf of the spectator, the desire for blood and spectacle.

In the gym, boxers train. Bradley Stone says boxing was his way out of a dead-end job. He wants to be a pro. Another interviewee says he sees his friends boxing on the telly and wants to be like them. Mark Kaylor wants to be world champion; otherwise he'll retire. The trainer explains that all the boxers are the same: they all make an effort. Whether they succeed or not, they'll be lucky if they get ten years out of boxing.

Bradley, running along the streets of East London, explains that in this area there are no jobs; without sport, there's nothing to do. He says that the boxers are trying to set themselves up for life, that they have to rely on themselves to win because boxing is not a team sport.

The narrator remembers how he is haunted by images of Robert Ryan alone in his room before his final fight in The Set-Up (US, d. Robert Wise, 1948).

At home with his kids, Mark Kaylor recalls that when he was a young he was skinny and was beaten up all the time because he would never give in. He learnt to box in the cadets, won competitions and then joined the prestigious West Ham boxing club.

Jimmy Tibbs is the trainer at West Ham. The son of a famous boxer, he turns boys into men. He explains that everything in boxing is a matter of timing. If you're not successful by the time you are 30, you'll end up back on the streets that once displayed your posters.

Mark Kaylor returns from Los Angeles for a comeback fight in the Docklands Arena, but the fight is eventually cancelled and he returns to the States. Other fighters on the bill do not have California, only Canning Town. In the New Year, the fighters move from West Ham to the Royal Oak club, once home to Frank Bruno and Gary Mason.

The interviewer visits a farmhouse in Hampshire with stylised boxing pictures on the wall. The farmer explains that boxing, like farming, is very physical and that's why he likes it. The interviewer says his feeling for boxing comes from films like The Set-Up and Raging Bull (US, d. Martin Scorsese, 1980).

Kaylor is back again. Bradley is training hard, and tells of a kid asking for his autograph after seeing his fight poster in the local laundrette. Men in the local pub talk about the tradition of boxing in the East End, and show newspaper clippings of famous boxers of the past.

The boxers are tense about their coming fights. They train hard and keep away from friends and family. They psyche themselves up by visualising their opponent as the obstacle in their path to success. They start to sell tickets for the fight; they can keep five percent of what they sell.

Everything is getting ready for the fight - weighing in, preparing the arena, setting up lights and ropes, putting on bandages and boots, stretching, rubbing down. Bradley wins the first fight. Kaylor's fight is against a challenger from Indianapolis. The crowd is nervous; they fear his best days are behind him, when he used to fight at Wembley. But he wins.

The narrator tells us that Kaylor wins again, but then loses the European championship and retires. The young boxers are set to follow in his footsteps as they return to their families, not to the lonely room of Robert Ryan.