When I first entered Gleason’s Gym in 1977 I thought I’d take a few quick shots for the portfolio and then move on. A few shots led to a five-year obsession that took me into some of the darkest corners of the Sweet Science and even an attempt at boxing myself. But that’s another story.
My day job then was answering “Letters to the Editor” at Newsweek, but in the evenings I’d rush downtown to Gleason’s to hang out with the fighters and their managers. Taking pictures at the gym made me realize that my true love was photography and I soon left the corporate comforts of Newsweek.
I starting shooting for New York’s trade unions – United Auto Workers, International Garment Workers and the Teamsters – and my union photography ran parallel with the boxing pix. Boxers have traditionally been cynically exploited, but any mention of organizing them into a union was greeted with desultory and threatening comments about the GoddamnPinkoCommieTroubleMaker.
So I kept my mouth shut and stuck to photography and sparring.
The boxing photographs were shown in New York at Benton & Bowles ad agency and the Soho Photo Gallery and then moved to London, where in 1984, at the Photographers’ Gallery, I was second act to the Picture Post’s great Bert Hardy. I was immensely proud to share the same gallery space with such a larger than life character, whose story telling was as great as his photographs.
The huge positive response to my boxing photos was instrumental in my decision to move to London in 1985.
And the rest, as the cliché goes, is history.