Inspired by Chaplin’s interest in boxing, as well as the Keystone two-reeler, The Knockout (1914), this comedy has Charlie finding employment as a sparring partner who fights in the prize ring and wins the championship match, with the help of his pet bulldog. In 1915, boxing events were illegal in most states, and films of boxing matches (including comic takes on them) satisfied a pent-up interest in the subject.
Chaplin’s brilliant choreography and hilarious antics in the ring anticipate the famous boxing match in City Lights (1931). G.M. “Broncho Billy” Anderson and Jesse T. Robbins (Chaplin’s producer for the Essanay comedies) play spectators in the boxing sequence, and Ben Turpin is unbilled in the small part of a vendor. THE CHAMPION is among the most famous of the Chaplin Essanay comedies.