I was first introduced to the sport of boxing at a very young age by my father, who fought in the New Jersey State Golden Glove Finals in the 1960’s. I would spend hours in the basement of our home watching him go through the motions of his workout as he shadow boxed, skipped rope, and hit the heavy bag, the wooden rafters of our home creaking as the bag swung back and forth with each explosive punch. These sights and sounds of the training routine eventually became a source of comfort for me, as well as a means of connection between me and my father.
On that same carpeted floor in the basement where he would train daily, he would teach me how to box. He would hold his hands out in front of him and instruct me on how to throw a straight jab, how to throw a right cross, and the importance of always keeping my hands up. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, in retrospect it was a beautiful experience through which my father passed down a craft and a ritual that taught me the seemingly old-school mentalities of discipline, masculinity and individualism.
Everything about the sport of boxing is so utterly real, even beyond the fighting itself: the smell of the gym, the lack of luxuries therein, the feeling and sound of hitting a heavy bag or going on long morning runs. All of these qualities lend themselves to the pure physicality and individualism of the sport, qualities that have become anomalous in a world that is becoming increasingly virtual and disposable. It’s a sport that is filled with archaic, almost romantic rituals, from the wrapping of the hands before a match to the fighter wearing a long hooded robe, being ushered out to the ring like a gladiator, where, although he is surrounded by his entourage, he is ultimately left alone to fend for himself with his skills, discipline and intuition learned during training to guide him.
Over the span of two years, I photographed at the Zaragoza Boxing Gym, a sparse family-owned gym located in the heart of Bushwick, Brooklyn. The boxers in the gym consisted primarily of teenage amateur fighters, many of whom went on to fight in the New York Golden Gloves. Throughout the project, I followed these young boxers from their hours of intense training sessions at the gym to the vulnerable moments leading up to and following their fights. More than an exploration of the fight in the ring, this project explores the fight within one’s self, the ritualistic preparations of the modern-day warrior, and the search for ancient definitions of masculinity and identity within modern society.