Champion will follow the story of black British boxing sensation Len Johnson

Len Johnson

Mindseye is to move into feature films with Champion, a film about 1920s/30s black British boxing sensation Len Johnson.

Champion will be executive produced by Guy East (Rush, Sliding Doors, The Woman in Black, The Ides of March) and a screenplay inspired by the book Boxing’s Uncrowned Champion – Len Johnson and the Colour Bar, written by Rob Howard, is being written by playwright Winsome Pinnock (Rockets and Blue Lights, Leave Taking). 

It is being produced by Hughie Phillips and Katie Mavroleon, the latter of which joined Mindseye as head of development in 2019 after it set up its Film & TV division. This adds to the commercials work that it has been producing since its launch in 2011.

Champion will follow Mancunian Johnson’s story as he became one of the top middleweight boxers in the 1920s and 30s while fighting racism that stopped him from reaching the pinnacle of the sport. Johnson won 93 fights in his career, but despite being a local hero who was respected by other fighters was denied the chance to become British champion as he was mixed race. The government had a law, the ‘colour bar’, at the time that only allowed the children of white parents to claim championship status.

Johnson fought against this in the ring by beating all the champions of the day, and outside of it through anti-racism campaigning against the British Boxing Board of Control alongside his white Irish wife Annie. While Johnson was never able to receive the recognition he deserved, his work led to the ‘colour bar’ being overturned.

Last year, a petition backed by boxers Anthony Joshua and Ricky Hatton and the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham was launched to have a statue of Johnson put up in Manchester.

Hughie Phillips, MindsEye co-founder and CEO said: “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.”