I never get tired of catching a Bowery Boys flick but film makers of the era did carry the boxing themed pictures to the limit. Counting their 1939 film when they were still the Dead End Kids in "They Made Me a Criminal", I've seen at least three other East Side Kids boxing pictures, all with Leo Gorcey as his character Muggs McGinnis doing the fighting - 1940's "Pride of the Bowery", 1941's "Bowery Blitzkrieg" and 1943's "Kid Dynamite". This time out, the Bowery Boys get behind Frankie Darro's character, a former fighter fallen on hard times after he refused to throw a bout. The story is made even more somber with the death of Johnny Higgins' (Darro) younger brother, the result of a ring casualty which makes it even rougher for his family when he decides to give it a go once more.
Frankie Darro was no stranger to boxing themed pictures either. However with the passage of a decade since his films "Born to Fight" (1936) and "Devil Diamond" (1937), Darro managed to get better coordinated in the ring so his fighting scenes here looked a bit more realistic. In the pictures mentioned, he looked off balance, taking wild swings and in the case of the earlier movie, had this weird looking hop whenever he threw a punch. In short, he didn't even look like he belonged in a ring.
Besides Gorcey and Darro, Huntz Hall gets in some decent screen time as Johnny's younger brother Boomer is kidnapped by henchmen of boxing manager Blinky Harris (Lyle Talbot), who's maneuvering a build up for Johnny so he can have him take a fall in a match for the Light Heavyweight Championship. I don't know how he pulled it off, but Sach (Hall) got the better of the two thugs who were supposed to be guarding Boomer. I guess if this picture were in color, you'd know why the Bowery Boys' colors were black and blue.
The film does have it's light spots as fans of the Bowery Boys are accustomed to, but you have to get past the early going when Slip (Mahoney) and Sach have to deliver the bad news of Jimmy Higgins' death to Mrs. Higgins (Dorothy Vaughan). The speakeasy scene with Frankie Darro on the skids with a no account floozy is also a little hard to take, while the background music tries to fit but falls flat. The picture redeems itself with the final fight scene as Johnny rises to the occasion to beat the champ, though it's done more in the spirit of good guys defeating the bad guys than with any realistic appreciation that Johnny could have pulled it off for real.