"In fact, it’s dawned on me over the years that there is less macho posturing in boxing gyms than in the average corporate boardroom."
- Katherine Dunn
Boxing is the sport of the dispossessed. No matter the place, no matter the era, fighters emerge from the marginalized corners of society because in these places, boxing is seen as a way out. I have fought and photographed through thirteen gyms spanning two continents, and this narrative has always shown itself to be true in the world of prizefighting. But beyond the crude notions of survival, there is also a gentle search for dignity at its core, and that is what this project attempts to unearth.
When I tell people that I write and photograph the sport of boxing, they usually react with a look of surprise and disgust. “Why do you cover a topic so violent?” they ask. In return, I simply offer one question:
“Have you ever been inside of a boxing gym?”
I often question how we view the concept of violence. Conventional definitions solely relate to that of the physical, but violence is manifested in a number of ways – the way we speak, the way we act, or our willingness and unwillingness to care for another. In that regard, the boxing gym is one of the kindest places I've ever known. It is a place where the troubled go to find themselves, where kids go to be safe. It is one of the only sanctums undisturbed by the conflicts raging outside of it.
The public respects the boxer because they are able to elevate themselves beyond their circumstance. While they admire the will to sacrifice for a greater purpose, the real reason people admire prizefighters is because the fighters are their neighbors, the sons and daughters of the community. They come from the same place and for that, boxers inspire the belief that anyone can change their life.
The making of a fighter is a communal effort. There are coaches, teammates and physicians that put a fighter together, but it is the community that first raises them. It is the woman who gave a free meal because there was not enough money for lunch. It is the church that used the collection plate to buy a pair of running shoes. Essentially, a fighter is the physical embodiment of a communal prayer. It is the message to the world saying that in spite of their circumstances, “This is what we have, and this is what we can be.”