mike tyson:

When I was a student at Parsons School of Design I decided to do a project about young boxers who lived and trained with Cus D’Amato, the legendary boxing trainer. On weekends during the semester I stayed with Cus and his protégés. My main focus was on Billy Hamm, a nine-year old boy, and a young woman, Nadia Hujtyn, who worked out at the gym in hopes of becoming a boxer. But there was also a big kid named Mike Tyson. Cus, and boxing manager Jim Jacobs, told me that Mike would be the next world heavyweight champion. I was most interested in Nadia, but people weren’t ready for female boxers back then. My story on Billy Hamm ran in Inside Sports Magazine. I continued to photograph Cus’ trainees, including Mike. I traveled to Las Vegas, Miami, Atlantic City. I began working for Sports Illustrated. I photographed Roberto Duran and Wilfredo Benitez. I spent time with Muhammad Ali. I worked for Don King and Al Sharpton. I did stories with Joyce Carol Oates, became a friend of Jack Newfield. I was in my mid 20s and the world of boxing was an exotic land.

I was interested in who these fighters were, and how their lives led them to this path. Where did they come from, what did boxing give them? Most were poor, or, like Mike, came from juvenile detention centers or prison. What drew me to the sport was the discipline it requires of body and mind, but I also saw grace and compassion. Later I witnessed what happens when a 21-year-old becomes a superstar, a sports superstar, the celebrities’ celebrity. Ultimately, my interest lay in a story larger than boxing or an individual athlete.

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