They Fight

: Documentary
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Production


THEY FIGHT is a documentary that follows a group of adolescent boxers and their formerly incarcerated coach in Southeast Washington DC on the road to defend their national titles.


In Washington D.C., Walt Manigan has established one of the nation's top youth boxing programs, not only to help young athletes pursue their dreams in the ring, but also to help these young fighters avoid the same pitfalls that led to his imprisonment. Inspired by an article featured in the Washington Post, this documentary will chronicle a powerful story of redemption, competition and growth within in a largely ignored community in Washington D.C. In Ward 8, widely considered one of the most dangerous and economically challenged neighborhoods in America, Coach Walt Manigan has cultivated a thriving after-school boxing program called Lyfe Style Boxing. In the past 5 years, Walt has guided his 14-year-old prodigee “Peanut” Bartee to 5 national titles. Quincey Williams (13), another rising star at Lyfe Style, has 4 national titles under his belt. Quincey won the Junior Olympics in 2016, while at the same competition, Peanut faced his first loss in over four years. The road to the 2017 Junior Olympics will provide the frame for our story: as Quincey fights to defend his title, Peanut will fight to avenge his loss. However, the heart of the film will lie in those key moments outside the ring where we explore the lives of these characters at home, school, work and within the community. With so much divisive and negative news coming out of Washington D.C, it's time for a story that is universally inspiring and uplifting to emerge from our Nation's Capital. 


My goal is to create a boxing movie that just happens to be real. I am drawn to opportunities of synecdoche where you can “Trojan Horse” an audience into exploring broader issues; with this story, boxing is the backdrop to a much more important story of redemption, youth, and community. I aim to tell an intergenerational story where men who were born to parents plagued by drug addiction grew up to be drug dealers and who now, ultimately seek redemption by ensuring that the younger generation will not follow that same path. The great thing about docs, and this story specifically, is that we are provided with the best screenplay imaginable, and it's just our job to capture the story given to us in the most effective way.  I think that now, more than ever, it is incredibly important to push the envelope in the documentary space. As documentaries are emerging as an even more populous medium, it is crucial to adapt and improve aesthetically. We should strive to minimize the difference between docs and fictional narrative cinema, which is what we are aiming to do with this film. Just because you only get one take doesn’t mean the aesthetic should be any less. I was certainly inspired by Ryan Coogler’s Creed, which was able to take the visual standard of a boxing film to another level. There are no rules telling us that just because it's a documentary, the camera has to exist within a certain framework, which has inspired me to try and take the visual standard of a sports doc to another level, while allowing this beautiful story to unfold naturally and honestly.


Coach Walt Manigan - Starring

Coach Walt Manigan is the head coach of the Lyfe Style Boxing team in Southeast DC.

Coach Walt learned boxing from Barry Hunter, a famous figure in the D.C. boxing scene. However, his tenure with
Hunter’s team, the Head Bangers, ended when he was incarcerated for distributing cocaine.

Like most of the boys he coaches Coach Walt was raised without a father figure and lived his early life running the streets. While coaching at Headbangers Walt tried to straddle the streets and the boxing world, eventually leading to his arrest.

Soon after his release from FCI Cumberland, Walt began coaching alone, too ashamed to return to Head Bangers. He soon stumbled upon Raghaleak or "Peanut" and Quincey, working in the gym with little guidance. 

Now, 7 years later, Walt has helped guide the boys to promising amateur careers and multiple national titles. Outside of being a coach Walt has had to step up in other ways : coming to the gym every day after working construction and volunteering his time to help fill in for the father figures these two boys have been missing since they met Coach Walt.

Aside from his arrest, Walt has seen what the streets can do to kids: his first son was killed in a robbery on his 18th birthday, while Walt was still in jail.

Ragahleak "Peanut" Bartee - Starring

Ragahleak Bartee met Coach Walt when he was 9 years old, and the two have been together ever since. Wrapping his hands in the corner of a recreaction center, Coach Walt saw Ragahleak and, after only one day together, Walt knew there was something special about the boy.

That day Coach Walt also gave Ragahleak the nickname that would stick for the next seven years : Peanut. Since then Peanut has had over 60 fights, and has won 6 National tournaments. Along with Quincey, Peanut, at only 14, has earned a reputation on the national stage.

When they met, Peanut did not have a father in his life and was living in the Trinidad neighborhood of D.C., a neighborhood so violent it was home to military style police checkpoints in 2008.

Coach Walt has played the role of father in Peanut’s life, something Peanut readily admits to. Peanut still lives in Southeast, DC. After school everyday he heads to the Ferebee Hope Recreation Center where he helps lead the Lyfe Style Team.

Now 14 and in his first year of high school, Peanut must balance school, boxing and helping his mom take care of his baby brother and sister.

Quincey "Body Snatcher" Williams - Starring

When Quincey first found Coach Walt, at 8 years old, he began sparring with Peanut, a year older and more experienced. Peanut would beat Quincey so bad that the 8 year old Quincey would would go to a corner of the gym and cry. Even at that young age, Coach Walt saw the opportunity to teach Quincey and kicked him out of the gym.

A few days later Quincey returned to the gym, promising Coach Walt he would not cry anymore.

Since then Quincey has had over 60 fights, winning the 2015 and 2016 Junior Olympics, his 3rd and 4th National titles.

Quincey lives in Ward 8, within walking distance of the gym, though, due to the nature of the neighborhood, Walt and the other coaches do not let him make the trip home alone. Less open than Peanut, Walt worries about what Quincey goes through outside of the ring. 

Lamar "Twin" Odoms - Starring

Lamar Odoms, or Twin, started boxing with his twin brother Lamont, at 12 years old at the urging of their father, who, as a single parent, needed the boys to have an afterschool activity.

Starting with the Lyfe Style team, Twin was behind both Peanut and Quincey because of his lack of experience. But soon the older boy humbled himself and began to work harder to catch up. Now Twin, 16, is on his way to the Junior Olympic Nationals for a second year in a row.

Twin lives in Ward 8 with his family. Though Twin wants to be a pro boxer, he understands the importance of education and is an honor roll student at National Collegiate Prep School, a charter school in DC.


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