Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: David Oyelowo is ready to play iconic boxer Sugar Ray Robinson in a biopic based on the Wil Haygood biography Sweet Thunder: The Life And Times Of Sugar Ray Robinson. Moneyball producer Rachael Horovitz and Game Change scribe Danny Strong will produce, and Oyelowo will be executive producer. Haygood wrote a draft of the script and depending on who the director is, Strong might come on and do a rewrite.

All of this came together on the set of the Lee Daniels-directed The Butler, the film that Oyelowo stars in with Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker. Strong wrote that script, based on Haygood’s Washington Post article, and the three of them found the beats of the boxing movie.

Sugar Ray Robinson is still considered arguably the greatest pound-for-pound boxer ever. That included the six brawls with Jake LaMotta was a big part of the Martin Scorese-Robert De Niro classic Raging Bull (Robinson won five of them). Sweet Thunder chronicles Robinson’s exploits with an emphasis on an intriguing aspect of the fighter’s early career. Despite being the class of his field in the welterweight and later middleweight class, Robinson spent too long watching inferior fighters get title matches, boxers that he’d whipped soundly in non-title fights. The reason: boxing was controlled by organized crime, and Robinson declined to get in bed with them, and refused to throw a fight. Robinson helped expose that seedy underbelly of the business.

Oyelowo, who first got on the radar for his work on the British spy series MI-5, recently starred in Middle Of Nowhere and The Paperboy, and this fall he stars opposite Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher and appears in a small role in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln with Daniel Day-Lewis. Oyelowo is repped by ICM Partners, Inphenate and Hamilton-Hodell in the UK.

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