Most of you know I have been photographing boxing for a long time. I also have been working on a film titled IN THIS CORNER and it has been one of my ongoing projects. Over the years, I have photographed Mohammed Ali, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Arturo Gatti, Gerry Cooney, Larry Holmes, and the list goes on.
While working on my film at Gleason’s I met a young man by the name of Khalid Twaiti over a decade ago. I believe he was 10 or 11 years old at the time. He had fire in his eyes, passion in his soul and determination in his heart. He is also very bright young man. Khalid has ten years at Gleason’s with an amazing amateur record. He has a great trainer by the name of Don Saxby who also has the same passion dedication and heart. Not only is he a great trainer but a surrogate dad in and out of the ring. Khalid’s mom, dad, family, and friends are very much behind him. Put that all in the world’s largest blender and what comes out I believe to be the next lightweight champion of the world – somewhere maybe between 118 and 127. Khalid will probably need another 36-40 months but will become Champion. There is no doubt in my mind.
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The first time I walked into Gleason’s was in 1975. That was the old Gleason’s in Manhattan. The new-old Gleason’s has been around for about three decades. It has the same ambiance as the old Gleason’s. Not only does it have the same red walls but also the same smell that permeates Gleason’s. I’ve taken several hundred people there and they absolutely love it – as they should. It’s not only a piece of history but it’s also living history and, as we all know, a little bit of sweat equity never hurt anybody. Bruce Silverglade is the the current owner and his father before him was the previous owner. The original Bobby Gleason’s wasn’t Bobby Gleason’s at all- it was Bob Gagliardi. The reason Bob changed his name to Bobby Gleason is that the fight game back in those days was predominantly Irish. Wow, I wonder what Donald Trump would say about that? The Irish were rapidly followed by the Italians, then African Americans, the Hispanics, oh my god- everybody! That’s why they call it a melting pot! Gleason’s remains the oldest boxing gym in the United States. Every time I leave Gleason’s, I feel younger, stronger, and that my focus is better. I absolutely love it. It’s like going home. The purpose of my visit was to interview Khalid Twaiti. We have been following Khalid for the last 12 years. Khalid is a brilliant young man who will be graduating LIU with a major in business and he’ll be having his first professional fight on December 10th. Khalid expects to have three championship belts in three different weight classes within the next four years; I genuinely believe he will attain his goal.
I also had a great surprise at Gleason’s. I met Bruce Silverglade’s son, David, and David is cut from the same cloth as his dad. Extremely bright, well read, well spoken, and a tough S.O.B. – and that’s a good thing! We had a great one-hour conversation. David opened my eyes to a few things- let’s call it a little bit more education. You know what? It’s all good.Last but not least, it was great to see some old friends (even though they like to beat up on me!)
To all the ships at sea, Gleason’s will be closing their doors in early December… not exactly! They’re moving to a new location just a few blocks away from the current location. I’m looking forward to photographing it before doors open. I understand Bruce got a great discount on some red paint; I can’t wait. A new era will be born at the new Gleason’s and it will be as great as those before it.
I was scheduled to shoot a 20 minute interview with my boxer, Khalid Twaiti, last Saturday at Gleason’s, the same day Muhammad Ali passed away. Bruce Silverglade gave approximately 24 interviews to every TV station across the country. Being at Gleason’s that day was must have been an omen. I interviewed people that never saw Ali fight or didn’t know that his slave name was Cassius Clay, but they all looked up to him, loved him, and respected him even though they were kids. Once we have the interview edited I will post them. Take the photo of Khalid with Bert Sugar.