Documentary filmmaker Billy Corben is perhaps the foremost chronicler of Miami’s considerable underbelly working today. Best known for Cocaine Cowboys, his compulsively watchable masterwork about the wild, blood-soaked heyday of Miami’s drug trade in the 1970s and early 1980s, Corben later focused on South Florida pot-smuggling with Square Grouper, and helmed a pair of standout docs for ESPN’s 30 for 30 series: The U, which detailed the flamboyant legacy of the University of Miami Hurricanes, and Broke, about free-spending NFL and NBA athletes. His latest look at Florida freakiness is Dawg Fight, available online beginning March 12 at Dawg-fight.com.It’s a ringside seat to the backyard bare-knuckle fighting game in West Perrine, Fla., a hardscrabble town that spawned YouTube sensation-turned-MMA curiosity Kimbo Slice.
Dawg Fight follows Dhafir "Dada 5000" Harris, a former Slice bodyguard running the unsanctioned matches, as well as several of his fighters desperately trying to punch their way out of poverty, a few of whom meet predictably miserable ends outside of the 12-foot backyard ring. The fights provide a few scarily brutal knockouts and plenty of bloodied, misshapen faces, courtesy of Dada allowing the brawls to go on too long (he serves as referee in addition to promoting fights and recruiting combatants). Dawg Fight itself might have benefited from being shorter—it could have worked just as well as a particularly gritty installment of 30 for 30—but it largely succeeds as a memorably unflinching document of an underground pastime rarely seen on film.