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Interview with Kent Moran: Writer/Director/Producer of the new Boxing film “The Challenger”

By: Matthew N. Becher

Kent Moran began filming the boxing movie “The Challenger” in 2012. The movie takes place in the Bronx, New York and is a story about a young man, struggling to make his way through life. He needs money to make ends meet, and keep him and his mother from being evicted from their apartment. Moran stars as the lead actor “Jaden Miller”, who decides to take up boxing as a way to make extra money. He finds his way into a gym owned by local trainer “Duane” (played by the late Michael Clarke Duncan) and quickly uses his rough living conditions to motivate him, to the top of the light heavyweight division.

We were lucky enough to speak with the man himself, Kent Moran, and ask him some questions about how the film came about, his involvement in today’s boxing, and how he got ready to go from Hollywood actor to “professional” boxer.

Boxing Insider: You are from New York and lived in the Tri State area most of your life. How important was it to you for this movie to be set in The Bronx?

Kent Moran: I always wanted to do that because my great-uncle was a professional boxer in the Bronx. I wanted to make that was part of the story. He was a boxer in the early 1900s. It was always interesting to me, seeing pictures of him growing up and just trying to tell a more modern story of what it might be as a boxer growing up today in the Bronx. That is what I was trying to accomplish.

Boxing Insider: What is your personal history with the sport of boxing, did you ever box as a kid growing up?

Kent Moran: No. I played a bunch of sports growing up, the only thing close was I wrestled. I didn’t have much exposure to boxing. I always loved watching it and liked boxing movies. But for me it’s a great cinematic tool, to show a characters journey and how it can relate to the journey to the ring. I thought about doing an MMA movie instead of boxing, but I wanted to make it more traditional.

Boxing Insider: You played the main character “Jaden Miller”, did you watch a lot of current fighters or try to duplicate any ones style?

Kent Moran: I like Pacquiao a lot, and when I trained for this, I was training mainly at Wild Card Gym in Hollywood by Pepe Riley. I did like 7 months there, then I was also training in New York, under Golden Gloves boxer, Duane July. I wasn’t particularly doing one style over another, but I wanted to have the realistic progression of a boxer that starts from nothing. So I wrote a lot of those early training sessions into the movie itself with Michael Clarke Duncan as the trainer. I wanted that part to be realistic. That is where my love for boxing really grew, during the training.

Boxing Insider: Your trainer in the movie is played by Michael Clarke Duncan, in his last role before his untimely passing. What was it like working with him?

Kent Moran: It was fantastic. He was a pleasure to work with and unlike any other actor I have worked with so far. He would bring something great to every single take. As a director and as editor, I could have used any take that he did. I learned so much just from the energy he brought to the performance. And as a person he was so fun, but intimidating at first. The first time we met was at the airport and he said to me “The only other actor director I have ever worked with is Anthony Hopkins, so you better be ready for this.” Then he just walked away from me.

Boxing Insider: Was it always that you were going to play this role, or did you ever think of using a non-actor or even a pro boxer to play “Jaden”?

Kent Moran: I never actually thought of using a professional boxer, but I did think of using my Brother for the role, because I knew that I wanted to direct it. My brother is also an actor and we were both very much into sports growing up. I wasn’t sure if I could actually accomplish the directing and acting, knowing how much work I would have to put into the role. It just so happened that my brother, Luke, couldn’t do the movie because he was working on another project that conflicted with this one.

Boxing Insider: Did you end up doing live sparring for this movie?
Kent Moran: Yeah. In the training sessions we did a lot of sparring. I tried to make it clear, being an actor you don’t want to get hit in the face too much. In the actual movie all the body shots and all the boxing is real contact, except for the face. We were both really soar after the final fight, me and Justin (who plays rival fighter “James”).

Boxing Insider: What would you like people to take away after seeing this movie?

Kent Moran: I wrote it at the time that we were going through the recession. I wanted to tell a story that could bring hope to people in general, no matter what walk of life you are from. And show something that could be a realistic depiction of how someone with not very much, just believing in himself, with the support around him, could succeed at what they were doing.

The film “The Contender” was released through VOD, iTunes and all digital platforms on Tuesday February 2nd.

It will eventually have a run on Netflix. And you can follow Kent and the movie through these social Media Links.

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