Nonna Mira, the real boxing enthusiast of the family, set her alarm for 3 a.m. and called my father and me (just a boy) to watch big matches live from Madison Square Garden in New York. With this memory, I went looking for those atmospheres and values of the great boxing of the sixties and seventies.
Ropes, wooden planks, nails, torn carpets, peeling walls, worn-out shoes, feet, gym bags, towels, robes, sacred images, iron stairs, neon lights, grimaces of pain, laughter of victory. Boxing.
For instance from the “poor” gym, Academia de Boxeo Henry Garcia Suarez, in Holguin (Cuba), have come Olympic and world champions. And you’d never guess.I was attracted by the almost paternal respect for the coaches and champions, the discipline for training, friendship among companions, the rhythm of legs and veins, pride and courage.Boys begin training at the age of 8-10 years, sometimes without headgear and shoeless, chasing victory with bare hands and with many dedications: for themselves, their families, their country.
In Buenos Aires, the Boxing Club Ferrobaires gym, is in a space directly below the old abandoned Constitucion station. The long march to become champion of the world starts by slipping into a cement hole, down a rickety rusty ladder. Rain or shine, down there it’s always dark. From behind the door a crack of light appears and some noise, of gloves and voices. Including that of a seventy-year-old in a white singlet and boxing trunks, who on that 7 November 1970, was in Carlos Monzon’s corner in that epic challenge against Nino Benvenuti. Josè Menno trained the boys for free, below street level, to try to keep them off the streets: “My greatest joy is when one of them, smiling, told me he feels like a new person”.
As the President of Italian Boxing Federation said “It seems a paradox, but the ring is one of the few places in the world where men are really equal, where they fight for their dreams regardless of status, race or culture. Alone, without even difference in clothing, they face each other as equals, without the help of machines, without external support, without any outside help”