One of my first assignments I ever had as a photographer was a photo essay on boxing. My photojournalism professor asked us to do a photo essay on someone we didn't know and it just happened to be at the same time the Texas Golden Gloves finals were taking place in Fort Worth. I'm still not sure how I had the guts to do this but I pulled into the parking lot as the athletes were registering for the event and I just walked up to the biggest boxer I saw. His name was Ladell Williams from Oak Cliff. Somehow Ladell and his coach trusted me and let me follow them around that weekend and I came away with some decent shots--nothing extraordinary. Photography was completely new to me at the time.
I really loved the experience. Boxing is different from sports like football and basketball. It's way more personal. In football there's 53-75 players on a team and it's just next to impossible to really focus in on one player or even care about one player. With boxing I was able to focus on Ladell and spend time with him as he prepared. Sadly, most of those images were lost when a hard drive crashed but I have a couple that I put on flickr.
Since that time I've been looking for more opportunities to shoot some boxing but I just haven't had any luck until recently. One of Dallas' newest venues, The Bomb Factory, hosted a Premier Boxing Champions event that was nationally broadcasted on NBC of which I was able to get access. It wasn't the access I was hoping for but as a photographer usually has to do, I worked with what I had. It would’ve been great to be able to shoot ringside with my 16-35mm capturing wide angle shots of jarring punches but instead I was relegated to the balcony of the venue. To get as close to the action as I could I had to work with my 70-200mm.
One of my favorite current photographers is Al Bello. He’s a sports photographer for Getty Images and his boxing photography is unrivaled. He consistently pumps out fantastic work from the major bouts featuring the likes of Mayweather, Pacquiao and Canelo. Well, after this event I have a whole new found respect for his amazing work. It was much more difficult than I thought to keep up with the fights and try to capture a flurry of punches, let alone a knockout punch. In one of the early fights I thought I was about to capture one—I saw it coming. One of the boxers attempted a wild right hook but he missed and while he was attempting to regather himself he was wide open and his opponent rocked him with a right hook of his own and knocked him out cold. I saw it coming but I couldn’t react fast enough and missed the knockout punch by at least two frames. I was pretty bummed out.
Later I felt like I was getting better but it still took a few rounds of each fight for me to start to see patterns in the boxers’ styles and prepare for flurries, but it was still quite a task. It was a great challenge, though, and I definitely look forward to being able to shoot more fights because when you do a great shot from a boxing match it feels pretty damn rewarding.