Rachael Horovitz, the producer who originally set up the Michael Lewis book Moneyball at Columbia about overachieving Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane, has found a new sports figure to hang a picture on. Horovitz has teamed with Recount screenwriter Danny Strong to option the Wil Haygood biography Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson. Haygood will write the screenplay. He met Strong on The Butler, the Sony Pictures Entertainment film that has Lee Daniels attached to direct and Laura Ziskin to produce a film about Eugene Allen, who observed the civil rights struggle as an eight-term White House butler and was brought back after retirement to see Barack Obama inaugurated as the first African American president. Strong wrote that script, based on a series of articles that Haygood’ wrote for the Washington Post.
Robinson is still considered pound for pound the greatest boxer ever. Aside from taking on the likes of Jake LaMotta, Rocky Graziano and Carmen Basillio, Robinson challenged mob control of the fight game in the 1940s and 50s, leading to Senate corruption hearings. He opened the Harlem nightclub Sugar Ray’s in Harlem in 1946 and it became a celeb magnet, but his own foray into showbiz was less impressive. He shockingly hung up his gloves in 1952 to become an entertainer with the Count Basie Orchestra. After getting the first bad reviews of his career, Robinson un-retired three years later and won the middleweight title. The book was published by Knopf in 2009. Horovitz also produced the Emmy-winning Grey Gardens and the Alexander Payne-directed About Schmidt. She and Strong will get a script from Haygood and package the pic.
Here’s a dose of Sugar Ray Robinson, as embodied in the Martin Scorsese-directed classic Raging Bull, and a scene in which Jake LaMotta brawls with Robinson: