Commercials production company MindsEye has signalled its move into feature films with the announcement of Champion, which charts the true story of black British boxing sensation Len Johnson.
Johnson, who became British Champion, was blocked by the boxing authorities simply because of his race, but this ultimately led him to an even greater triumph.
Guy East (Rush, Sliding Doors, The Woman in Black, The Ides of March) is on board to executive produce the film.
Award-winning playwright Winsome Pinnock is writing the screenplay, inspired by the book Boxing’s Uncrowned Champion – Len Johnson and the Colour Bar, written by Rob Howard.
Hughie Phillips, MindsEye co-founder and CEO says “We are delighted to be partnering up with Guy East and Winsome Pinnock to bring Len Johnson’s timely, and until now virtually unknown story to screen. Len Johnson was a man born ahead of his time, whose dignity and resilience saw him overcoming the odds in the most courageous of ways. Len leaves with us a victorious and crucial legacy, and one we cannot wait to share with audiences around the world, finally giving Len the recognition he deserves.”
Born in Manchester, Len Johnson overcame extreme adversity to become one of the top middleweight boxers of the 1920s and 30s, winning 93 fights across his boxing career. A local hero and respected by his fellow fighters, Johnson, who was mixed race, was denied his dream of becoming British Champion because of the government-backed ‘colour bar’, which stated that only fighters born of white parents could claim Championship status.
Johnson fought tirelessly against this injustice both inside the ring, beating all the champions of the day, and outside it, through his anti-racism campaigning against the British Boxing Board of Control. By his side throughout his career was his white Irish wife Annie who aided this fight.
Last year, a petition was launched to have Johnson commemorated with a statue in his home city of Manchester, a campaign supported by boxers Anthony Joshua and Ricky Hatton and the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham.
MindsEye started up in 2011 and set up its Film and TV division in 2019, bringing in producer Katie Mavroleon (David Brent: Life on the Road), as Head of Development. Champion is one of a number of productions the company is progressing.
Champion is being produced by Hughie Phillips and Katie Mavroleon.
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