Former boxing champion Billy "The Champ" Flynn (Jon Voight) works as a horse trainer in Hialeah, Florida and is raising his young son T. J. (Ricky Schroeder) after his wife Annie (Faye Dunaway) left him seven years ago.
In order to give his kid a good life, Billy comes out retirement and starts working on his comeback, but things get complicated when Annie comes back into the picture, wanting to be a part of T.J.'s life again.
- Jon Voight as Billy "The Champ" Flynn
- Faye Dunaway as Annie
- Ricky Schroder as T. J. Flynn
- Jack Warden as Jackie
- Joan Blondell as Dolly Kenyon
- Arthur Hill as Mike
- Strother Martin as Riley
- Elisha Cook Jr. as Georgie
- Stefan Gierasch as Charlie Goodman
- Mary Jo Catlett as Josie
Originally, the film was intended for Ryan O'Neal and his son, Griffin, but during the same year "The Champ" was released, he starred in another film called The Main Event.
Because the production didn't have an actor to play the lead title role, shooting was delayed from February to March of 1979.
After Ryan O'Neal withdrew from the film, Robert Redford was approached to play the main character, but after he wanted script changes that would've pushed the beginning of the film's principal photography, the production looked for someone else.
Jon Voight had a physically tough time working on the film. In order to play the lead character, he had to learn things quickly and underwent an intensive training schedule. Voight was trained in boxing by Jimmy Gambina (who did the fight sequences for Rocky).
For the role of T. J. Flynn, two thousand kids were interviewed and Ricky Schroeder was screen-tested for the part. Originally, the producers offered Schroeder the role on the condition that his parents sign a seven-year exclusive contract on his behalf. At first, Schroeder's mother turned down the offer, but later, the producers offered Schroeder the role with no strings attached.
"The Champ" received negative reviews from critics and currently holds a rating of 40% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Vincent Canby from the New York Times gave the film a negative review, saying, "The most offputting thing about such canny, tear-stained movies as The Champ is not their naïveté but their unholy sophistication. These movies don't mean to deal with the world as it really is, but as it should be."
1980 Academy Awards
- Oscar for Best Music, Original Score: Dave Grusin (nominated)
1980 Golden Globes Awards
- Ricky Schroeder: New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture- Male (won)
- Jon Voight: Best Motion Picture Actor-Drama (nominated)
Young Artist Awards
- Ricky Schroeder: Best Juvenile Actor in a Motion Picture (nominated)
- Best Motion Picture Featuring Youth (nominated)
1980 Awards of the Japanese Academy
- Best Foreign Language Film (nominated)