On the other end of the scale is Josh Hartnett, who just doesn't carry the weight or the emotional depth required to make Erik an interesting figure. Erik is emotionally fragile, dealing with living in the shadow of an absentee father, who is a legendary boxing reporter from the 1950's. On top of that he is struggling with his role of father, wanting to do better by his son than his father did by him. The problem lies in Hartnett's inability to play that range — he comes across as being terribly bland. The supposed struggles are conveyed in dialogue, but not delivered in a convincing manner.
Finally, in a supporting role, Alan Alda does a very good job as Erik's editor. He is believable and imparts constructive criticism of the sort that I have received in the past. That is perhaps why his performance hit home for me.
The sad thing is that this movie tries so hard to be good, yet fails to deliver on its promise. Everything that didn't directly concern Jackson felt soft and weak by comparison. The moral conflict that is built up doesn't really pay off, nor do the problems that Erik had with his father. All of these elements, some of which seem like they should be important to the story, fail to really deliver anything of real use. When it was all over, I felt rather empty. I had a definite reaction to Champ, but everyone else failed to register.
Bottom line. A great performance brought down by a sub-par surrounding story and performances. This is definitely worth seeing for Jackson's knockout performance. It has the basis of an interesting story about journalistic integrity, personal responsibility, and the desire to make a mark, but in the end it fails to really offer anything on the subject.