The Future of Cuban Boxing
Upon arriving to Gimnásio de Boxeo Niños de Cuba, Daniel Casanova – a former Olympic boxer and trainer – tells me, pointing towards four kids, “this is the secret of Cuban boxe [sic]; starting early”. It’s three o’clock on the afternoon, almost 40 degrees and the boys hide themselves from the sun standing against a wall.
Karl is the oldest at 10 years of age and has been training for one year. Eriante and Ernesto are 6 years old and Yanguiel is 7. The four boys are the last ones of the 25 students that Casanova used to have. The others abandoned boxe to practice football – the new sporting trend of young Cubans; fanatics of Messi’s Barcelona.
Preparation starts with warming up; running, stretching and punches on air underneath the caribbean sun. The academy works out in a vacant lot between two buildings. There’s no shade with the boxing ring in the background of the lot, made of old rotten boards and assembled over a rusted metal structure. At the stairs, there’s some missing steps and the boys suffer to climb.
After the warm up comes the tactical training, in which tips are given to the boys and guts and effort are charged. At a certain point, they put the gloves on and prepare to fight between themselves. Yanguiel and Ernesto trade punches on the floor covered by rocks (the boxing ring is too old for practice). Hearing the screams, I realise that the commitment of these young boys is truthful. The fighting at Gimnásio de Boxeo Niños de Cuba is treated by the boys as if it was the final of a global championship.
It doesn’t take long to Ernesto knock down his opponent. An accurate punch on the face and Yanguiel falls – he will fall two other times during the fight. The combat ends with Yanguiel’s third fall, he receives encouragement from Casanova, and takes a big swig of water.
A session of flexions and abdominals is the signals the end of the training day. The boys walk out through a metal door that divides the lot onto the street of the Havana Velha neighbourhood, on their way home they talk and make jokes with the loser of the day. Casanova watches the boys until they turn a corner then turns to a 17 year old boy that already started warming up for his practice session. “From the big ones, just this is the only one left”, Casanova tells me with a sad look whilst pointing out the beefy young boy trading punches with his shadow against the wall. Casanova claps his hands and yells, “let’s go, let’s go, the boxing ring does not wait”.
Henry has a degree in journalism specifically working in photojournalism for 21 years, developing documentary projects and essays related to ‘photography of the ordinary’, depicting the daily life of cities and ordinary citizens.
Henry won the New Holland Photojournalism Award in 2012 and was one of the winners in the POY Latam 2013. He has exhibited documentary work in Uruguay in (2008), Paris (2009) and Portugal (2014).
Henry has been selected to be part of “The Best of Brazilian Photojournalism” editions 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Henry was born in Piraí do Sul, a small town in the state of Paraná, southern Brazil.
Check Henry’s works: henrymilleo.wordpress.com
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