Boxing, brothels, Sicilian crime bosses, a high-profile murder — sounds like the stuff of Hollywood movies, but these sordid genre cues actually surrounded the true crime story of Argentine fighter Oscar “Ringo” Bonavena, who was found shot in the heart on the steps of a Reno bordello at the peak of a career cut tragically short 39 years ago.
Bonavena was a hard-hitting, square-jawed porteño brawler who earned his nickname for the Beatles hairstyle he donned. He was known for going toe to toe with the best of his generation, from Joe Frazier to Muhammad Ali. Unfortunately, along with his big personality and media-friendly charisma, Bonavena was known for being mixed up with a shady character by the name of Joe Conforte, who happened to be the proprietor of the first legal brothel in Nevada.
So imagine a nation’s shock when the pride of Argentina was discovered splayed out at the entrance of Conforte’s Story County Mustang Ranch with no apparent explanation, dead at the tender age of 33. It was precisely the memory of this collective shock and the speculation that followed in the aftermath of the crime that led Argentine journalist and documentary director José Luis Nacci to retrace the life and death of the boxer in his latest feature.
Inspired by Leon Gast’s award-winning chronicle of Ali and Foreman’s Rumble in the Jungle, When We Were Kings, Soy Ringo finds the 65 year-old Nacci digging through newspaper archives, carrying out original interviews, and even returning to the scene of some of the most memorable events in Ringo’s life and career as he peels back the layers of truth and fiction surrounding the athlete’s death. The result is admittedly a bit rough around the edges — with functional but unimpressive camerawork, patchy sound design, and a somewhat dated score — but the material was obviously interesting enough to land Soy Ringo in film festivals from Buenos Aires to Havana.
And in case you were wondering, the truth behind Bonavena’s untimely passing is ultimately as intriguing and salacious as anything Hollywood could dream up. Keep a look out for Soy Ringo for a worthy primer.