There is still more to come from Cuba but I didn’t want to get into a rut. I don’t follow boxing. However the challenge of photographing the sport motivated me to give it a try. I had worked for a few years with HBO Championship Boxing doing slo-mo replays & I saw the speed & the action intimately. When I look at iconic boxing shots I realize just how difficult the sport is to cover with a still camera. I contacted Wolfpack Boxing Club & asked if I could bring my camera to try capture a few images. The owner Jeff said sure.
The skills necessary for a boxer to step into a ring are as numerous as any sport. Split second hand-eye coordination, stamina, strength, agility, concentration & balance are all needed to attack you opponent while they attack you. Beyond the gloves & the roped off ring the sport has no other accessories. Their is no denying boxing is violent. However, it also involves strategy & judgment, which allude to the epithet of the “Sweet Science.”
In addition to physical training a boxer must have psychological confidence & tenacity, which fuels powerful reactions. Capturing the brief expression with the action is a tremendous challenge for any photographer. But when you get it it’s compelling.
At ringside you need different focal lengths to capture the action while shooting at a steep angle when boxers get close. Often action is blocked or so abrupt an angle that good images are almost impossible. For this shot at Wolfpack in Carnegie PA, I positioned myself with the background in mind. I then waited for the action to happen in front of it. Since this was training I was alongside the ropes & had flexibility where I could stand.
Real-time self-observation is an excellent drill to develop techniques of punches & combinations. The opponent is yourself, which allows you to observe what an adversary sees. This perspective is a tremendous motivating drill. In a studio lighting situation I’d enjoy the chance to explore old school shadow boxing where I control the shadows.
Frequently on HBO Boxing events I isolated a hand-held operator working from the corner of the ring. Gordie Sager was recognized as one of the best in this position. It was a pleasure to be responsible for replays of his work. He never gave up on framing for the best perspective. Slight adjustments he made in his position often resulted in surprising results because he knew where the action was going to go. Most memorably was his reaction when we didn’t get a single replay on the air. He said, “The other cameras had the best looks…tonight.” He understood the value of patience & persistence.
Close-ups are more dramatic, but the story of most sports is told in wide shots showing relationship & interaction. Real fans of boxing know that a head to toe 2 shot is the bread & butter of the sport. I can’t say I am knowledgeable enough to analyze individual boxers. However, I am aware enough to recognize & respect determination.