A Million-Dollar Maybe
Boxing trainer Jerry Boyd had never met Juli Crockett when he wrote the stories on which the film Million Dollar Baby is based. But when he did--at a bout in San Diego--he was convinced she was Maggie Fitzgerald, the tough and driven fighter of his fiction (played by Hilary Swank in the movie) come to life. Like Fitzgerald, Crockett came from the South, grew up without a father (but found one in the ring), and had a brief but stunning pro career (3-0, with 2 knockouts) cut short by injuries (though not nearly as severe as Fitzgerald's). Other parallels: ambition, boxing style, that smile. Crockett, now 29 and a grad student, saw Million Dollar Baby for the first time last week.
Are you Maggie Fitzgerald?
Jerry believed I was the incarnation of this character he'd created, and I know some of my boxing tapes were sent to the people who made the movie. I think Maggie's a part of me, a simplified version of me.
Was Fitzgerald the real thing?
Not really. She never got tired or sore. She never had to struggle to "make weight" --one of the greatest problems for boxers. In the story you tell yourself about being a boxer, you're tough and strong. But in doing it, you're tired, you're scared, it hurts, you're lonely and deprived.
What it is about boxing that drives fighters?
There's this great simplicity. Once you get into the ring, there's only one thing to worry about and that's the other person. Boxing is so powerful that way. It's like a drug. There are few moments in life when you get to have that experience of complete victory.
Boxing destroyed Fitzgerald.
The movie is such a miserable look at it. Most of the boxers I know have never been really hurt boxing. You want people to realize that girls have the drive and stamina for it.
You didn't rush to see Baby.
I knew it would make me want to box again. I made a list of things I miss and ones I don't--discipline and deprivation. If the legs and shoulder got better, if I could be miraculously healed--would I make that choice again? -Betsy Streisand
This story appears in the February 14, 2005 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.