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
. 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.
Mike Tyson's Sports Illustrated Cover