|NJPPA Pictures of the Year 2002 / Mult Sports 3rd place A |
Fight Fight night in Paterson
This is fight night in North Jersey, in places like the Kennedy High School gymnasium.
Boxers train daily, some leaving their jobs as janitors or dishwashers, some hoping to leave their past in prison behind. They try to get in work on the speed bag before twilight fades, preparing for the six-rounder coming over the weekend. They get a bench in the girls locker room - or the boys - and perhaps read the Bible until it's time to get their hands taped and it's finally time to stare down the opponent.
Children, parents, grandparents - black, white, and Latino - in the crowd of maybe 1,000 don't seem to care that the gym is mostly dark. They don't really know these fighters, so they cheer whenever a flurry of punches comes. And they cheer the girl who struts around the ring flaunting the card that tells what round is coming next. The toughest person in the gym might be her bodyguard.
In the meantime, fighters train and wait. If they are lucky, a cash payday is waiting when it's over. If they get knocked out of the ring, well, there's a big ice pack waiting.
Either way, they know what they're fighting for.
Frankie "The Shark" Toledo, 32 of Paterson, works out on the punching bag at Joe Grier Gym before traveling to a fight in another state. Toledo is now ranked 4th in the International Boxing Federation as a Featherweight, he was also a 2 time world champion. Tariq Zehawi/The Record