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'Maravilla': The Best Netflix Sports Documentary That You Haven't Watched Yet

'Maravilla': The Best Netflix Sports Documentary That You Haven't Watched Yet
By Gavan Casey Updated

Ever since their VPN crackdown and the subsequent unavailability of ESPN's 30 for 30 series in Ireland, there's been somewhat of a dearth of decent sports fare on Netflix.

We've all seen the ever-presents by now; 2014's Iverson - an enthralling reflection on the career of a misunderstood NBA great. 1994's critically-acclaimed Hoop Dreams - the journey of two African-American basketball prodigies who are recruited by a predominantly white high school and basketball super-power. 1977's Pumping Iron - a docudrama about the world of professional bodybuilding, with a focus on the 1975 IFBB Mr. Universe and 1975 Mr. Olympia contests.

The sports genre doesn't tend to see as much upheaval as other Netflix categories, in the UK and Ireland at least. Recent addition of the compelling Les Bleus aside, it's rare we're treated to new sports documentaries, and so we tend to go further afield - and usually deeper into the online Aether - for our fix.

One sports doc which tends to go overlooked by Netflix subscribers in these parts, however, is the criminally underrated Maravilla.

'Maravilla' - the best sports documentary on Netflix that you probably haven't seen yet

Maravilla provides a superb behind-the-scenes insight into the extraordinary story of recent boxing middleweight kingpin Sergio 'Maravilla' Martinez - one of the sport's great talents and gentlemen - and the boxing bollocksology which threatened to derail his stint as one of the planet's finest fighters.


Like many of it's ilk, this is a film probably better suited to non-boxing fans, or casual observers not overly familiar with Martinez or his achievements. For instance, if you're the type of sports fan who has ever wondered, 'how are there so many boxing champions per weight division? Sure that's ridiculous!', this 80 minutes will equip you with a fairly concrete understanding of the sport's irreparably shady political system, while providing you with one of its most compelling tales from recent years.

Such is the sweet science's niche nature on this side of the pond, Martinez' career and brief but spectacular middleweight dominance might well have slipped your radar. The Argentine star first picked up a pair of gloves in 1995 - aged 20(!) - and in the 19 years which followed would become the third best fighter in the world, behind only Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Besides middleweight belts, his plethora of accolades included Fighter of the Year awards by both The Ring and the Boxing Writers Association of America in 2010, as well as The Ring's Knockout of the Year for his victory against Paul Williams that same year.

In 2012, Martinez fought our own Matthew Macklin in the Theater at New York's Madison Square Garden - a venue graced once more by Mack The Knife just a fortnight ago, as he managed Michael Conlan for his professional debut exactly five years after trading leather with Maravilla.


Martinez-Macklin features in the documentary, as does both fighters' shared promoter Lou DiBella, whose fury at the corruption and lies used by the World Boxing Council to strip Martinez of his crown and install Mexico's Julio Cesar Chavez Jr as champion in his stead produces some wonderful behind-the-scenes fireworks.

DiBella, a fighters' promoter as opposed to the various charlatans in his field, at one stage takes the WBC to task at their own convention, standing and ranting at now-deceased president José Sulimain - Chavez Jr's godfather, no less - about the organisation's disgraceful treatment of Martinez, declining orders to 'sit down' by the WBC's powers-that-be. It's a phenomenal insight into the murky world of boxing ABCs and promotion, and one which - as mentioned above - instantly educates the more casual observer of the sport.


Add to this Martinez' own journey behind closed doors, as the ageing middleweight faces a battle against time to fight the pretender to his throne, Chavez, while his body breaks down despite painful recovery work between fights. There's also the dynamic which explores why Martinez, despite his world-conquering abilities, is 'a nobody' in his homeland of Argentina, propelling the middleweight king homewards to partake in Dancing With The Stars-like competitions and stand-up comedy routines in an attempt to break his own country.

Finally, he and Chavez throw down for the title which had only changed hands thanks to horrendous boxing politics. Here, viewers not familiar with Martinez might be fooled into thinking they're watching a fictional tale unfold, such is the suspenseful nature of a fight years in the making.


We follow Martinez' family, who 17 years prior pleaded with their boy not to fight, and invite the whole neighbourhood - and local radio broadcast - to their home to witness the culmination of his greatest fight of all.

Maravilla is a real-life sports epic bunched into 80 exciting minutes, not a single one wasted. By the end, you're throwing punches with him, as he attempts to quell the dark forces which seemed so intent on ruining one of boxing's great modern tales.

Housemate Review

That was f***ing unbelievable. I was absolutely bricking it at the end. How the hell have I never heard of this guy? Boil the kettle there, will ya?



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