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19 NOVEMBER 2018


Rome Hit By New York Shots

By Peter Lerner: Vinny Maddalone is so big he could pick up an average-sized man and snap him in two. Emanuele Della Rosa is not averse to putting the odd wrestling throw or headbutt into his combinations. Domenico Spada once told an opponent to be a man and not fight like a woman, and sometimes when Daniele Petrucci comes home from a night’s work his shorts are so soaked in blood that you can no longer tell what the original colour was.

So what were these unlikely characters doing hanging around Macro, the gallery that is the epicentre of Rome’s contemporary art scene?

The event that brought together the boxing world and the art world, that introduced the Italians to the Italian-Americans, was the opening of New York Shots, an exhibition of the work of the American photographer Howard Schatz.

Schatz has built up an impressive body of work over the last few years, photographing and interviewing a huge number of boxing personalities in his studio in New York. Name a prominent boxing figure – whether it be a fighter, a promoter, a trainer, a doctor or even a journalist – and the likelihood is that Schatz has met that person and created a distinctive image. His best-known boxing work is probably the series of photographs he has taken for the Super Six tournament and the Showtime bantamweight tournament. Go on the television network’s website and you can find his images being used to publicize the Pacquiao-Mosley bout.

The exhibition features ten of Schatz’s studio portraits, mostly in black and white, brought together with the theme of Italian-Americans in boxing. There’s Vito Antuofermo looking back at the camera challengingly with the eyes of a man who has lived through some wars; Lou Savarese is there, looking like some sensitive matinee idol from years gone by; and Angelo Dundee in profile, with all the lines and age spots and dignity you would imagine of someone who has been a witness to and participant in some of the sport’s most famous episodes

It was all set up by Gabriele Tinti, an Italian writer and art critic with a deep love of the sport. He has already organised boxing-based art exhibitions and contributed to a book about Sumbu Kalambay. It was his idea to bring the work of Schatz over to the Italian capital.

Joe DeGuardia and Vinny Maddalone – two of the subjects of the photos on display – both made the trip over along with Schatz himself. At the opening of the exhibition they were joined by a whole host of Italian boxing figures. The ubiquitous Nino Benvenuti, who is really the elder statesman and symbol of Italian boxing, was there. It was clear that DeGuardia and Maddalone were delighted to meet a man considered one of the living legends of boxing. Some of Italy’s more revered ex-fighters were there too: Sumbu Kalambay, who may have been blasted out by Michael Nunn (in a real surprise – Kalambay was iron-chinned and solid while Nunn for all his glitter was not considered such a devastating puncher) but beat a murderer’s row of Mike McCallum, Iran Barkley, Steve Collins, Herol Graham, Doug DeWitt, Robbie Simms and Buster Drayton; Gianfranco Rosi, who was the WBC junior middle champ before running into the Lone Star Cobra and later reigned as the IBF boss for five years; and Maurizio Stecca who twice held the WBO featherweight title and mixed with the likes of Louie Espinoza and Colin McMillan.

One of the highlights was introducing Petrucci and Della Rosa (neither of whom speak English) to Maddalone (who doesn’t speak Italian). The big New York heavyweight must have been twice the size of the two Italian battlers. As he towered over them he was polite and respectful while I told him about their achievements (Della Rosa having gone the distance with the underrated Sebastian Zbik for the WBC interim title; Petrucci is an undefeated welterweight on the fringes of world class). They asked me whom Maddalone had fought. He told them – Jean Marc Mormeck, Tomaz Adamek, Evander Holyfield – and their jaws dropped.

The exhibition will run until 1st May.

March 27, 2011

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