The movie begins with Jerry Ferro (Adam Carolla) waking up before sunrise on his 40th birthday in his Los Angeles apartment. He has a live-in girlfriend who constantly nags him that he is going nowhere in life and he works construction as a laborer because he hasn’t gotten his contractor’s license. He picks-up his Nicaraguan friend, Oswaldo, and the two head to work.
Jerry’s boss at the construction site, Mike, belittles him and ridicules his life as a 40 year-old with no goals or prospects in life. Jerry decides to get a little revenge and rigs a belt sander to fly out a window into Boss Mike’s windshield when Boss Mike plugs it in. This enrages Boss Mike who tries to hit Jerry, but Jerry can dodge every punch. Jerry and Oswaldo flee in Jerry’s truck as Boss Mike drives a pick ax into the passenger door as they make their escape. This is the last straw for Jerry’s girlfriend and she leaves him. Jerry does not feel too bad about losing his job, but feels bad for Oswaldo who is now out of work.
Jerry has also been working nights at a local gym training people how to box in a kind of workout/boxing/fitness class. It seems Jerry was a pretty decent amateur boxer 20 years ago. He was nicknamed “The Hammer” and even had a shot at going to the Olympics, but he quit before his final match. There was no real reason he quit, but he later says that “playing Atari and smoking pot were a lot more fun to a 19 year-old than doing sit-ups.” One day Jerry is asked to spar with a promising young boxer named Malice Blake. Jerry takes a good beating, but lands a solid left hook that floors Malice. Malice gets up mad as hell before the 10 count and beats Jerry some more before the bell. But Jerry has been noticed by a boxing coach named Eddie Bell who asks him to come to his gym to train for the Olympics. Jerry finally agrees to get back in the boxing game and gets Oswaldo a job at the gym at the same time.
Running concurrently with Jerry’s comeback is a romance with a public defender who is a student in Jerry’s boxing class named Lindsay. Their first date is the ominous “Day date” that Jerry hates as she wants to go to the La Brea Tar Pits. Jerry takes her and they have a good time, but no romance. Lindsay seems not to want to get involved with Jerry and drops out of his boxing class. He later goes to her office and convinces her to go on a second date with him where they have a nice dinner. Lindsay offers to “go Dutch” and split the check, but Jerry won’t have any of that and goes into a bit on just how cheap does a nation have to be if their name is synonymous with splitting the check. The romance starts to go well from this point on.
Jerry starts training at Eddie’s gym and meets two other fighters under Eddie’s tutelage. There is Vincent, a skinny kid who is nice to Jerry and always seems to be praying. There is also Robert Brown, a boxer who does not like Jerry because Jerry is 40 and they are in the same weight class. Robert vents his anger to Eddie that Jerry does not belong in the gym and says if Jerry was a 40 year-old black man he would not be getting this shot. Jerry sarcastically asks Eddie, “Yeah, Eddie, when is the black man finally gonna get a fair shot in the boxing game?” They begin training for the Western Regionals in Arizona where the top two fighters from each weight class will advance to the Nationals. If you win at the Nationals you go to the Olympics.
There is a lot of competition between Jerry and Robert as the two train, spar and prepare for the Regionals. One day Robert goes to Eddie to ask him why he has two light-heavyweight fighters on his team. Eddie confides to Robert that the only reason he asked Jerry to try-out for the Olympics was so he could serve as a sparring partner for Robert. You see, two of the best fighters Robert will face on his quest for Olympic gold are both tall, left handed fighters just like Jerry. Rather than pay Jerry to spar with Robert, Eddie figured having him train for the Regionals would allow Robert to spar with Jerry for free. Eddie secretly feels Jerry has no shot to qualify for the Olympics but will make a good sparring partner for Robert. Robert feels bad for Jerry, but doesn’t tell him the truth just yet.
The three boxers (plus Oswaldo serving as a corner man) head to Arizona for the Regionals in a van. Jerry and Robert are in different brackets and will not have to fight each other. One of the top amateurs in the country, who just got out of prison, is Jerry’s first opponent. Eddie made sure Prison Guy wasn’t in Robert’s bracket so his bracket would be a cakewalk. Jerry gets beaten pretty badly for the first three rounds. Before the start of the fourth round Eddie tells Jerry he has to go get Robert ready for his fight and deserts him much to Jerry’s dismay. This pisses Jerry off and he goes out in the final round and knocks out Prison Guy. Jerry and Robert both win the rest of their fights and are headed to the Nationals. Vincent also wins his fights and moves on to the Nationals. Robert volunteers to drive the van back to California but sees police lights in his rearview mirror at one point. He begs Jerry to switch places with him because he has warrants out for his arrest. Jerry agrees and takes the ticket (for driving too slow). It seems Robert is a terrible driver and Jerry goes into a comic tirade about driving too slow (“What are we 200 feet out of Phoenix by now? Glaciers move faster than you drive.”). Robert is now starting to respect Jerry’s determination and boxing ability and you can see that what Eddie is doing to Jerry is weighing heavily on his conscious.
At this point Lindsay gets an offer to interview with a law firm in Seattle. Jerry doesn’t like the idea of her leaving but she goes to the interview anyway. Jerry decides to do something nice for her like building her a backyard deck while she is in Seattle. He and Oswaldo go to the construction site they got fired from at the beginning of the movie and steal some wood for the job. Lindsay comes home that night to find a new deck and the words “Don’t Go” spelled out in candles on the deck.
The next day Jerry is confronted by Boss Mike and two of his goons outside the gym and asked about the missing wood. Jerry denies taking it and says Boss Mike owed him and Oswaldo two days pay anyway. Boss Mike gets mad and is about to break Jerry’s hand when Robert steps-in and levels Boss Mike with one punch; the two goons quickly run away. Robert then tells Jerry the truth about what Eddie is doing to him and Jerry quits the team.
We then see flashes of Jerry’s life as he is quite depressed about the current situation. He gets a crappy construction job again with Oswaldo. He drives by Lindsay’s house but a “For Rent” sign is up and she is gone. He keeps giving boxing classes at the old gym. He takes his frustrations out on a punching bag after the gym closes. Then Jerry starts to change his life and goes to take the contractor’s licensing exam.
The day of the National boxing finals Jerry shows up unexpectedly and Robert is glad to see him. The two are at opposite ends of the light heavyweight bracket and will only fight if they both make it to the finals. As you can guess, they both with all their fights (all of Jerry’s are by knockout) and they will meet in the finals. Vincent is not so lucky and loses a fight by decision. Before the final fight Oswaldo presents Jerry with a Holiday Inn robe with “The Hammer” spelled-out on the back with duct tape. Jerry makes his way to the ring and Lindsay is there to cheer him on.
Round 1 Robert lands the most punches and easily wins the round. Jerry lands a couple punches, but is too slow for the faster Robert.
Round 2 Jerry knows that Robert is going to work his body, but is unable to stop the faster, younger fighter. He counters with a few punches, but Robert lands the majority of the shots and gets in a few hard ones at the end of the round that knock Jerry down. Jerry is just slightly dazed, rests on one knee and lets the referee count to nine before he gets up and the bell immediately rings to end the round.
Round 3 Robert is so far ahead on points that Eddie tells him to dance around and stay away from Jerry. He does this until the crowd starts to boo him. He then starts to fight Jerry toe-to-toe which is a mistake and Jerry lands some hard punches at the end of the round that stun Robert.
Round 4 (final round)
Eddie tells Robert to dance and stay away from Jerry but Robert does not want to win like that and goes after Jerry. Big mistake. Jerry’s power punches stagger Robert and he is out on his feet, dazed, can’t hold his hands up to protect himself and is an easy target for Jerry. Jerry looks at the ref to stop the fight before he really hurts Robert but the ref won’t do it as Eddie told him not to stop the fight no matter what happens. Jerry fires a left hook at Robert’s head but pulls-up just short of making contact. Jerry hugs Robert and holds him up for the last 10 seconds of the fight until the bell rings.
Robert wins by decision, but then raises Jerry’s hand in a sign of respect and fires Eddie as his trainer.
The last shot of the film is back at Lindsay’s house on the deck Jerry built. She has obviously moved back to LA to be with Jerry. Jerry is showing Lindsay, Oswaldo, Vincent and Robert the blue prints for his own boxing gym that he is about to start building as a licensed contractor. It is in this gym that he will be training his student, Robert, for the Olympics.
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