A Gorilla in the Game: GP’s Cinematic Science
“When someone like Lennox Lewis tweets a tribute of mine, it’s thanks to them. And I really can’t show enough gratitude for that…”
If you’re a boxing fan, chances are you’ve seen some of Gorilla Productions (GP) work floating around the internet. It might have been the pulsating promo video he produced just prior to the Mayweather-Cotto bout, which proved to be a fight that lived up to the epic quality of GP’s video. Perhaps it was the emotionally charged, eloquently presented “If” video which highlighted some of boxing’s most passionate and intriguing moments back-dropped by the scintillating poetry of Rudyard Kipling. Or maybe it was the astoundingly well done career tribute to Prince Naseem Hamed which caught your attention. Either way, if you’ve had the opportunity to view GP’s work, you were likely impressed and wondering how an independent producer/artist could produce boxing videos more captivating than that which we see produced by ESPN, rivaling the high-end production value of heavy-hitters at HBO.
Passion, style, and a genuine love for the sweet science are the reasons for such brilliant production work.
Given the meager media outlets fans have for broadcasting/video/highlight coverage of boxing, you might never get exposed to high-level production work if you are not a subscriber to HBO or Showtime. However, with nearly 7 million views on YouTube alone, Gorilla Productions has become a beacon on the internet, and each video is greatly anticipated by legions of loyal fans hungry for the well established GP brand.
The first impression GP made on me was immense. I was on YouTube searching for analysis and recap coverage in the aftermath of Miguel Cotto’s first fight with Antonio Margarito. To this day, that fight remains one of the most compelling, dramatic fights I’ve ever witnessed. As I was on the hunt for a video recap of the epic and highly controversial showdown, I clicked on GP’s recap of the fight and was instantly enthralled with its cinematic quality. The super slow-motion highlights, the scene sequences from round to round, the selective clippings of pivotal moments of the fight, and the overall crescendo that was built up throughout the video was spectacular. Quotes from Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight drew Goosebumps as it seemed to perfectly compliment the tenor of Cotto-Margarito I. The fight’s essence had been captured vividly, and warrior poetry had been emphatically presented via moving pictures in a more dynamic way than I’d ever seen. I thought to myself, “How can this guy not be out there making videos for HBO?”
As I came to have a few conversations via e-mail with the man behind GP, I quickly learned that he was a man who respected the purity of his work in boxing. Working independently and solely for the love of the sport, that genuine signature is all over his videos, and is largely the reason why GP’s work has engendered the adulation of so many fans.
Also of interest is the multidimensional nature of the interests that influence GP’s brand. As an avid fan of soccer, GP has put his stamp on that sport as well. Further, whether it’s an interest in the artist Lupe Fiasco, or an interest in raising awareness on political issues such as what’s occurring in Palestine, it’s clear that there’s a larger cultural distinction to the GP brand that encapsulates a number of arenas, be it sports, politics, literature, film, or cinematic aesthetic.
The next time you hear someone say “boxing is dead,” ask them if they’ve ever seen a Gorilla Productions boxing video. A single view of his work will quickly rekindle one’s flame for the sweet science, however dormant it may lie.
I was recently able to ask the man behind GP questions about his work, his brand, and his characteristics as a human being outside of boxing. He graciously answered. This is for the aficionados. Enjoy.
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1. What got you first interested in boxing as a science/sport and what compelled you to begin chronicling the sport with your video production work?
Like most boxing fans my age here in the UK, I think my interest in the sport was captured by Prince Naseem Hamed. He was huge in the ‘90s. Unfortunately, his time at the top was short-lived and boxing, for me, became less accessible without the luxury of PPV and subscription TV. I was just a casual follower until I saw Amir Khan’s exploits at the Olympics and him single-handedly bringing the sport back to terrestrial TV. That was quickly followed by the advent of YouTube, and suddenly it was easy to follow the sport again. Access to fights (old and new) became so much easier and it didn’t take long for me to then become a more serious follower.
And with my video productions, I actually never planned on being a boxing highlight maker. In fact, my intentions were to only produce football (soccer) compilations and upload them onto YouTube. My first few videos weren’t even boxing related. I finally ventured into them after having an attempt at a Corrales-Castillo highlight, and found boxing—with its unrivaled drama and excitement—to be more fun to make videos out of. I saw video editing as a fantastic tool for expressing my feelings and joy on a particular fight, fighter or topic.
2. Explain the name Gorilla Productions—how did that come about?
I was heading into my final year of studying advertising and marketing communications, and so I was familiar with the importance of choosing a name for a brand. In the event of my videos gaining popularity, I needed a name, or an image, that would easily form an identity on its own accord. Which is why animals are often used for branding and advertising: they’re instantly recognizable and provide a useful face (or a logo) for what you’re offering—even if the two are unrelated. And what better animal than a gorilla? He’s big, strong, appears menacing and is the king of the jungle, right? Also, to maintain some form of connection with what I was doing—video productions—I knew it would be helpful if a simple abbreviation could also be formed from it; hence why many refer to me as simply GP.
3. There is both an emotional and epic quality to your productions. Do you produce your works with particular themes in mind, or do they sort of create a life of their own as you embark upon a new work?
I’d love to say that my end product is always what I set out to do from the beginning. But a lot of the time that isn’t the case. Most of the time it’s simply “let’s do a highlight for fighter A,” and then I would naturally pick up ideas and themes as I go along. For example, the Tyson and Ali tributes were originally just four-minute videos highlighting their in-ring footage. I didn’t plan on them being 10-minute career stories. But when I began collecting footage and listening to interviews, I realized I’d be missing a huge chunk of what they’re about if I didn’t try to include them.
But lately I’ve avoided that habit—you know, just making videos for the sake of it. In fact, I find it hard to get motivated to make a video unless it has a particular theme. I watch a lot of movies, TV shows, as well as following other topics and issues, and if I notice something which is parallel with boxing, then I have something to make a video out of.
4. Who are you favorite boxers and why?
I have to confess, I am somewhat of a newbie to the sport. My knowledge and interest doesn’t go very far pre-2000. You’ve probably noticed that in my videos—which mostly cover modern fights and fighters. And so my favorite all-time boxers are Prince Naseem and Roy Jones Jr. Prince was the one who of course introduced me to the sport and his style and flashiness has never been replicated since. He brought so much hype and excitement—the type which is badly missed today. And Roy is probably the most physically gifted fighter I have ever seen. The combination of speed, power and athleticism, I’ve never seen anything like him. He was unreal.
But out of the current crop, it’s Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto. The former has an endless list of spectacular wins against living greats and hall-of-famers, and the latter brings a combination of class and warrior spirit that will be sorely missed when he eventually retires.
5. What is your favorite video that you’ve done to date?
One that isn’t a boxing one, you’d be surprised to know. A good friend of mine organizes annual charity football tournaments to help raise money and awareness for Palestine. It’s an issue which is pretty dear to me, and my favorite video is the promo I created for it in 2011. The poem I featured in it is by the brilliant Suheir Hammad—a Palestinian poet, artist and activist.
But boxing-wise, I liked how my Trinidad-Vargas highlight came out. Unfortunately, not many people have seen it because Don King Promotions had it removed from my channel. Thankfully, someone else managed to upload it and successfully keep it going. I was happy with the way the music and clips seamlessly flowed to create a pretty accurate account of what was an amazing fight.
6. What is the most thrilling fight that you’ve ever witnessed?
Pretty difficult narrowing it down to just one, but I’d probably have to go with Cotto-Margarito. Thrilling as well as upsetting, and I’ve always felt that fight skimmed off a couple years of Cotto’s peak. But controversy aside, the persistence and toughness Margarito showed was incredible. Will never forget that the way he forced Cotto to bow down.
7. What type of music do you generally listen to?
It varies a lot. If you listened to my iPod you’d find anything from rap to rock to dance, or scores from films. Most of it is shaped by the type of music I like to include in my videos, but if I was to narrow it down, it would have to be rap. That was the genre I grew up on, and I’d name Lupe Fiasco as the stand-out artist in recent years. His first two albums—Food & Liquor in particular—were sensational. His storytelling and wordplay allows him to depict, in just a four-minute song, a tale most movies couldn’t do in 90 minutes.
8. What are you favorite films?
I have a variety of favorites depending on which mood I’m in, such as Terminator 2, Inception, Donnie Darko, the Matrix trilogy, Goodfellas, Casino, Apocalypto, and many more. But I tend to find the best replay value in comedy films, with Dumb & Dumber and Friday being my favorites. But as a whole, combining the genres I like—comedy, action and gangster themes—I would say Snatch is the type of film I’d most enjoy.
Looking forward to seeing how the new Superman flick comes out. Hopefully it takes the same route as the recent Batman reboot, and gives us a darker account.
9. How does it feel to have such a massive and loyal fan base/audience for your videos? You are beloved among boxing fans and have achieved such notoriety largely as an independent entity—is that accurate?
It’s really flattering and encouraging that there are hardcore boxing fans aware of my work and appreciate it. I’m just an amateur video editor and so I really only expect to have a handful of subscribers. But amazingly, some of those loyal fans do a great job of sharing my videos and contributing further to what I do. So much so that guys like yourself then take notice of my work and help report and publish it. It’s great and I hope it continues to last for as long as possible. I’m very thankful for it.
10. What are your goals with your production work? Would you like to keep it as a hobby, or do you have ambitions to go even further with your art?
At the moment I treat it as just a hobby—something I like to do in my spare time, which is why I haven’t really pursued it further. But when I think about it, it probably would be a dream come true if my work got recognized by the powers that be in the promotional world of boxing. Much like you, I genuinely love the sport, and so I like to think I could bring something of value into the promoting of events.
11. What would you like to say (if anything) to your fans and those that truly appreciate your work and contributions to the overall culture of the sweet science?
Just a massive thank you for their continuing support and promotion of my videos. I regularly check their comments on my Facebook page, and I can honestly say I’d have given up making these videos a long time ago if I didn’t know how much they appreciate what I do. Not only do they share my videos amongst other fans, but they’ve even forwarded them onto the very fighters that feature in them. When someone like Lennox Lewis tweets a tribute of mine, it’s thanks to them. And I really can’t show enough gratitude for that. So again, thanks guys. Keep an eye out for more stuff in the coming months!