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La Notte Dei Campioni

From Issue 86 • Words by Brad Roe, Images by Massimo Nardi

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brad roe images: massimo nardi

la note dei campioni

“That’s the most beautiful thing that I like about boxing: you can take a punch. The biggest thing about taking a punch is your ego reacts and there’s no better spiritual lesson than trying to not pay attention to your ego’s reaction.”

— David Owen Russell

It’s no secret that we like boxing. Similar to cycling, it requires focused training and enormous effort and is filled with pain, drama, ego struggles, transformation, discipline and courage. On our last visit to Italy, we met with photographer Massimo Nardi and discovered he had an unpublished set of images from an amateur boxing event in Rome a few summers ago. We sat down with him and went through all the photos to learn more about the night they were taken.

Here’s what Massimo told us: “Three years ago on a beautiful summer evening in Rome, I went to an event called The Night of Champions—La Notte dei Campioni. There were 12 matches between the best amateur boxers in Rome. All of the fighters were members of a boxing gym. A friend of mine, who is a boxer, told me about it and I was the only photographer there that night.”

“It was held in a piazza outside of the city center and I shot both black and white and color. For me, what I remember most about that night were the sounds. The deep and clear sounds of the punches were so unique and it was the first time I had ever shot boxing. I remember the sensation and the atmosphere were characterized by these intense sounds. It was a hot, summer evening and I shot all 12 matches. They went three rounds of a minute each. I was very close to the boxers; my arms were inside of the ropes so I had great angles and close contact with the athletes.

“Some of the photos show the precise moment when the punches landed and the impact of the punch made the sweat fly off the opponent’s face. There was a champion at the end of the night, but I don’t remember his name. There is a specific training behind these fighters and so the goal of the night was to show how well trained these boxers were. They were very young fighters, the oldest being 25 years old. At one moment there were two people fighting, but after the match they would embrace and congratulate each other. The goal of the night, and I hope of all sports, is to build community.”

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