February 2006

Rinsing Off the Mouthpiece
By GorDoom

Poem of the Month
By Tom Smario

The 2005 CBZ Year-End Awards
By J.D. Vena

Women to Watch For in 2006
By Adam Pollack


Lou DiBella: No Joe Palooka
By Dave Iamaele

Lamon Brewster, Unplugged
By Juan C. Ayllon

Touching Gloves with...
Clyde Gray

By Dan Hanley


Iron Mike Tyson: Myth or Monster?
By Jim Trunzo

Jess Sandoval: The Coach Says,
"Bundle Up"

By Katherine Dunn

The Legend of the Cuban Baron,
Ramon Castillo

By Enrique Encinsoa

Paul Thorn
By Pete Ehrman

Battling Nelson: Always Battered,
Seldom Beaten

By Tracy Callis

Kid Chocolate, the Cuban Bon Bon
By Monte Cox


Shadow Boxers
Photographs by Jim Lommasson

The Iceman Diaries
by John Scully

The Boxing Bookshelf
by Dave Iamele

'Shadow Boxers'

Photographs by
Jim Lommasson

(Drag your mouse over each photograph to reveal the caption, and click for a larger view.)

You probably don't know the boxers in this book. Few if any have danced under the lights of Madison Square Garden or Caesars Palace. They are the underdogs, the journeymen, the rank and file of the fight game who toil in busted-out boxing gyms far from the television cameras.

At one time there was a boxing gym in every sizable town in America. Today, they are found mostly in big cities, tucked away in shabby lofts and basements in the tough parts of town. Those that survive are the repositories of a centuries-old tradition of pugilistic knowledge that encompasses not only the physical mechanics of the sport but a code of respect and discipline that, at its best, transforms raw aggression into "sweet science."

In Shadow Boxers: Sweat, Sacrifice & the Will to Survive in American Boxing Gyms, photographer Jim Lommasson chronicles the tough -- and surprisingly tender -- world of America's boxing gyms and the community of fighters, trainers, and hangers-on who inhabit them. What he reveals to us is that boxing gyms are more than training facilities. They are sanctuaries in bad neighborhoods, lifelines for troubled kids, and shrines to the traditions of the sport.

In addition to the photographs are more than 20 essays by a team of veteran boxing writers: Katherine Dunn, best known for her novel Geek Love, discusses the role of boxing gyms in tough urban communities and takes a poignant look at a kid's first boxing lesson. Lucius Shepard, author of Viator and A Handbook of American Prayer, explains how the rhythms and rituals of the gym transform a young street fighter into a boxer. F.X. Toole, author of Rope Burns, a collection of short stories on which the movie Million Dollar Baby is based, reflects on the magic and drama of the boxing ring. Kate Sekules, a pioneering woman boxer and author of The Boxer's Heart, explores the subject of female aggression and reports on the travails of getting ahead in a male-dominated sport. Carlo Rotella, author of Cut Time: An Education at the Fights, discusses how boxers learn their craft merely by watching other fighters.

Sociologist Loic Wacquant, author of Body & Soul: Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer, summons the sounds and pungent smells of the gym and the sense of camaraderie and shared sacrifice that binds fighters together into a community. Robert Anasi, a former Golden Gloves boxer and author of The Gloves, writes about the personal demons that drove him to the gym. Joe Rein, a boxing writer and editor of FightWorld.us, advises the Smithsonian Institution to snatch up one of the few remaining old-fashioned gyms and put it in a museum before the last of these American institutions vanishes. The late Ralph Wiley, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and an ESPN commentator before his death in 2004, recalls a visit to an Oakland gym, where he learned about the fundamentals of boxing from a couple of old-time trainers. And sportswriter Mark Kram Jr. talks to a promising young fighter about his thoughts and feelings before a bout at the legendary Blue Horizon in Philadelphia.

An introduction by acclaimed boxing writer Bert Sugar (who will be inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in June) traces the history of boxing gyms. In the foreword, former world heavyweight champion Joe Frazier recalls his early days in a scruffy PAL gym in Philadelphia and talks about the principles that guide his own gym today.

Jim Lommasson and Katherine Dunn were awarded the 2004 Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University for their collaboration on this book.


Jim Lommasson is a photographer based in Portland, Oregon. He and writer Katherine Dunn were awarded the 2004 Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University for their collaboration on this book. Lommasson is a two-time winner of the New York Art Directors Award and was named Person of the Year by Media Inc. and the American Marketing Association. He exhibits his work throughout the United States. He has been documenting boxing gyms for more than a decade.


Robert Anasi, a former Golden Gloves boxer, is the author of The Gloves: A Boxing Chronicle.

Rene Denfeld trained as an amateur boxer and is the author of Kill the Body, the Head Will Fall: A Closer Look at Women, Violence, and Aggression.

Katherine Dunn is the author of Geek Love, a finalist for the National Book Award in 1989. She has been covering boxing since 1980, and her writing on the sport has appeared in such publications as The Ring, KO, Boxing Today, Esquire, Interview, Mother Jones, Vogue, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Sports Illustrated for Women, and Playboy. She is associate editor of CyberBoxingZone.com.

Joe Frazier is a former world heavyweight champion. A gold medalist at the 1964 Olympic Games and a member of the Boxing Hall of Fame, he works with professional and amateur fighters at Smokin' Joe Frazier's Gym in Philadelphia and oversees Frazier's Golden Gloves youth program.

Joe Rein is executive editor of FightWorld.us and a freelance writer.

Mark Kram Jr. has been a sportswriter for the Philadelphia Daily News since 1987. His work has appeared in The Best American Sports Writing in 1993, 2002, and 2003.

Carlo Rotella is the author of Cut Time: An Education at the Fights, which received the L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He contributes regularly to the Washington Post Magazine and The American Scholar. His writing about boxing has appeared in Harper's, DoubleTake, and Best American Essays. He is director of American Studies and associate professor of English at Boston College.

Kate Sekules is the author of The Boxer's Heart: Lessons from the Ring. She is a contributing editor at Food & Wine magazine, and her work has appeared in such publications as Travel & Leisure, O, Vogue, The New Yorker, and Harper's Bazaar.

Lucius Shepard writes about boxing for CNN/Sports Illustrated and CyberBoxingZone. com. His novels include A Handbook of American Prayer and VIATOR.

Bert Randolph Sugar is former editor of The Ring, Boxing Illustrated, and Fight Game and is the author of more than 50 books, including Bert Sugar on Boxing. He was named the "Greatest Boxing Writer of All Time" by the International Veteran Boxers Association. He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in June 2005.

Loic Wacquant is professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and researcher at the Centre de Sociologie Europeenne du College de France. He is the author of Body & Soul: Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer and held a MacArthur Foundation fellowship.

F.X. Toole was a cut man for more than 20 years. His collection of short stories, Rope Burns: Stories from the Corner, was adapted for the film Million Dollar Baby. He died in 2002.

Ralph Wiley served as a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, a commentator on ESPN's SportsCenter, and a columnist for ESPN.com before his death at the age of 52 in 2004. He wrote articles for GQ, National Geographic, Premiere, and many national newspapers. His books include Serenity: A Boxing Memoir.

"When I look at Jim Lommasson's pictures, I see myself as a young man working out day after day in that little PAL gym in Philadelphia, where my career started. This book shows a side of boxing that most people don't see -- the dedication and discipline that it takes to be a champion in the ring and in life."
-- Joe Frazier, from the Foreword

"A triumphal procession of words and pictures such as no Roman emperor ever dreamed of. This is a book truly for those with a reverence for the traditions of the sport."
-- Bert Sugar, from the Introduction

"An insider's vivid, surprising look at a world most of us never get a chance to see -- a world of battle-weary veterans and bright-eyed newcomers, of surrogate fathers and ancient skills and sanctuary from the mean streets just outside the door. Not to be missed."
-- Geoffrey C. Ward, author of Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson

"Gritty, grimy, and gorgeous. Lommasson's images move beyond the easy, one-sided spectacle of boxing as a blood sport and toward a multifaceted depiction of the boxing gym as a unique and beloved American institution. Visceral and quietly dramatic, the photos are [...] a lively cross-breed of art and journalism."
-- Victoria Blake, The Oregonian, review of gallery exhibition.

"As these gyms disappear...the essays...and photographs brought together in this documentary will provide a valuable portrait of this historic American institution."
-- The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

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