In undertaking Whatever Happened to Tyrell Biggs?, our primary purpose was to contrast the life that Tyrell once had with the life he now has – the career of an international star with unlimited potential versus the life of a guy working in an inner city boxing gym. From the outside, Tyrell’s life seems a mystery – the enormously talented young boxer who wins Olympic Gold, then wins his first 15 pro fights, but then, following a single loss in a title fight, comes completely off the rails.
To those of us who have come to know him through his own words and those of the people once close to him, the mystery quickly morphs into a tragedy. Were the drugs a cause of his epic fall, or were they just one more contributing factor accompanying the real cause – the feelings of isolation that he was ill equipped to overcome? He may have taken drugs to overcome those feelings, but, in the end, the drugs may have only increased his sense of isolation and alienation.
There is a film noir quality about this documentary that is needed to capture the grit of boxing, as well as the sport’s unsavory elements with which even the most skilled and dedicated young athletes may find themselves confronted.
Tyrell Biggs lives where each of us does, in the space between stellar achievement and catastrophic failure. He inspires all of us through his stoic demeanor. He has every reason to be bitter – against managers who were motivated primarily by dollars, against friends who overlooked the problems they saw, against a system that drives its competitors to undertake too much too fast. It would be unfair to cast as an individual failure what may well have been a systemic failure, which is why Tyrell’s story needs to be told against the larger backdrop of the business of boxing. Nevertheless, Tyrell’s story remains undeniably a human tragedy – one whose consequences have reshaped and redefined the life of a single human being.