The scene opens with a lightweight boxing match between champ, IRIS “THE DESTROYER” MENDEZ (Hispanic) and underdog, SAMANTA “SAM” MILLER (white). Trainer DONOVAN HARDOLD (African-American, 40’s to 50’s) and cut man, ROLEY ADAMS (African-American) can barely watch as Sam gets pummeled and want to throw in the towel. Despite being literally on the ropes, Samantha refuses to call the fight.
The men relent although they remain concerned.
Before she re-engages in the fight, Sam thinks she sees the ghost of her deceased mother in the crowd. This takes us back to 1998, where we find her mother JULIA (28) and her father DAVE (30) in the throes of heavy drug withdrawals. To feed their insatiable habit, Dave allows Julia to pimp herself out for money. With their kids in the back seat of the car, Julie winds up being murdered by an unknown assailant.
Time passes and finds a troubled 17-year-old Sam living with a decent and kind foster family i.e. RAY GOODMAN and his wife LIZ GOODMAN (suburban white couple, both in their 30’s, naïve about vast and indiscriminate world of drugs). Both find themselves on their wits end as they try to figure out how best to help Samantha who acts out by smoking pot and running away. She falls into even deeper trouble when fellow foster kid MARK (17) lures her into the decadent world of car theft, fast cash, and heroin use.
Mark’s life of adrenaline-rushed excitement ends, however, when he is pulled over and shot by cops during a theft. Sam’s foster parents try to help her but she continues to spiral out of control, resorting to stealing cars to get drugs.
Sam is almost beaten to death in her first solo auto theft attempt so her drug withdrawals cause her to do the unthinkable: she removes a Rolex watch she had symbolically hidden within Mark’s gravesite and trades it for her next fix with a dealer named DJ.
The potent drugs wind up almost taking her life as she succumbs to an OD. After she’s released from the hospital, she makes a deal with her foster parents and gets an old model car in exchange for not skipping her NA meetings. She manages to keep her end of the bargain.
Sam then bumps into her brother Bobby who winds up being a speaker at one of the NA sessions. She tries to avoid him at first and when he finally catches up with her, she admits she is afraid she will end up being a drug abuser like their mom. Bobby gives her his card and asks her to come meet with him that weekend. She reluctantly promises that she would.
At DONOVAN’S BOXING & MMA GYM, Bobby introduces Sam to Coach Donovan and prize fighter CC who is like a daughter to the older man. Bobby takes her to a sushi restaurant afterward where he reveals that both Dave and Julia had once been great parents, but both had succumbed to drugs after getting hooked on pain-killing opiates. He once saw their dad at their mother’s grave but he ran away. Dave later reached out to Bobby via a letter, informing his son that he refuses to re-enter his kid’s life until he was completely clean.
Samantha soon learns that everyone has tales from the mean street including Donovan, who struggles with alcoholism and CC, who was living on the streets. CC divulges Donovan’s haunted past i.e. his family was killed when he was driving drunk. This compels his sobriety and causes him to reach out to help those in need.
Donovan falls off the wagon, however, when CC’s match with lightweight champion IRIS lands her in a coma. Samantha and Bobby find that they must help Donovan in turn as he is suicidal and unable to move past what has happened to CC.
This incident compels Samantha to face off against Iris, something Donovan initially tries to talk her out of. She eventually talks him into helping her. Between training bouts, Samantha tries to do right by her foster mom by returning her jewelry and also attempts to get the Rolex watch back from neighborhood drug dealer DJ.
While trying to get the watch, Sam notices a familiar-looking truck and discovers that it is the same one she saw as a child when her mother was killed. A visibly-shaken Sam informs the cops that she was in the area to get the watch when she saw the truck. The cops assure her that they would investigate further.
The night of the fight arrives and against all odds, Sam rises victorious, snagging the championship title. Her dad Dave even shows up and would later help Donovan and Roley train her. The cops subsequently raid and kill DJ in his drug den. They snag the watch for Samantha and return it to her. CC herself makes a full recovery and the loving and strong boxing family would carry on. In the interim, feisty Sam would continue to fight, win or lose, never abandoning hope and never turning away from her goals.
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