Like I mentioned in my last post about Cuba, while spending a few days in Havana, I was lucky to come across this small boxing ring in the middle of Havana Vieja and although it looked like nothing was happening there, I stuck my head inside the courtyard and came across Daniel Casanova, a man who has been boxing all his life and who was preparing the place for the daily boxing training of some of the neighbourhood kids. He said I should come back a couple of hours later as there will be plenty of kids practicing and hopefully lots of photo opportunities.
I returned later that afternoon to find the entire place full of really energetic kids, doing their warm-up and wrapping their hands in preparation for the upcoming practice matches in the ring. One thing that struck me was how serious all of them were taking it – you would think they were about to go into an Olympic boxing match. In order to understand this, you have to go back and look at the history of boxing in Cuba. It’s an incredibly popular sport here with great results over the years – plenty of Olympic and World Amateur Boxing medals and with a lot of hope for the future as the country becomes more and more accessible.
Speaking to Daniel, you can see the passion he puts into training these kids, but at the same time the care he shows for them. He’s always there to give them some extra advice, keeping an eye on them so they don’t hurt each other. He’s even managed to get a couple of other former boxers to help with the training. The kids constantly discuss their fights, figuring out ways of doing it better or explaining to each other what else they could have done during a match.
For me, having grown up in a communist country, this passion, thrown into a sport without having much support or money, felt somehow familiar. It reminded me of that spirit of making something out of very little, fixing what’s broken instead of throwing your hands up in the air and saying that you need something new. The same applies to photography as well – it’s not so much about having the latest gear, but about making the most out of that gear and learning how to look beyond it.