Inspiration for “Reflections of the Spirit’

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From the time I watched the Gillette Friday Night fights during the late 50’s on my grandfather’s RCA, to viewing the closed circuit fight between Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson with my Father, I’ve always been interested in boxing. As a privileged child attending summer camp, I was in a boxing match. No training involved, I just fought for the fun of it. Boxing wasn’t sport, it was hitting and not being hit. I won the fight, but I was hit a lot, something I haven’t forgotten. There weren’t any losers, we were all winners, our lives insulated by design, preventing us from stepping into the ring again. We were fortunate, we were middle class, we were the American dream.

Boxing is much more than sport. It is a way of life, a vehicle out of the blight of urban decay and poverty, a road to personal glory and self-esteem regardless of the age of the fighter, whether he is an amateur, journeyman or champion.

Boxing is a business, big business, where financial gain can be staggering, reached only by an elite, a fortunate few. Despite this disparity, there exists an intimacy within the boxing community, a delicate thread woven between fighter, trainer, manager, and extended family.

During the scope of this project, I have traveled to the Safety Harbor Spa, Miami’s Fifth Street Gym, New York’s Times Square Gym, and Gleason’s, under the Brooklyn Bridge. Most of these gyms are located in rough neighborhoods where young men seek refuge from the outside temptations of drugs and violence. On the street, life exists around 24/7 hours of chaos, but in the gym, life is a three minute world, dictated by the bell’s discipline, cutting through the smell of stale sweat, the snap of fist against bag over the staccato of the jump rope and speed bag. Three minutes where life begins and ends, where dreams are made and shattered.

Men show consideration of each other regardless of race, language, and education. There is a common bond of mutual respect for their dedication towards victory, self-esteem, and preservation. Perhaps this is the reason why there is such congratulatory response after a fight between two pugilists who previously tried to harm each other to no end.

The photographs and interviews capture the light and spirit of self-confidence and trust. In short, a collection of portraits emphasizing the intimacy of boxing while dismissing the sensationalism of ring violence. They depict the evolution of man, the child’s naiveté, the journeyman fulfilling his dreams, the champion experiencing his new found fame and fortune, the retired fighter reflecting upon his tumultuous past.

The photographs are a mirror of ourselves, our personal struggles with failure and success, making us stronger human beings by recognizing that our strength lies in our differences, pulling us together and not apart.