In all my previous trips to Cuba, we never put boxing on our people-to-people trips or our humanitarian trips. On this VIP trip (Joe and JoAnne) Havana was seen up close and personal. I asked where the boxing gym was and they all said Kid Chocolate. Not wanting to be argumentative, I said, “Si!” Of course I know Kid Chocolate as Peter Quillin, a middle weight from Chicago. Well, there was another Kid Chocolate and that Kid Chocolate had a total of 152 fights and 136 wins. Kid Chocolate is now the name of the boxing gym in Old Havana. Of course, not doing my research properly, I showed up at the gym on a Sunday. I go to Gleason’s on Sundays all the time… well Kid Chocolate is not open on Sundays, so two security people who spoke a little English said to come back mañana. Sure enough we returned mañana and the security people, recognizing us from the day before, took us through the back door. I have to tell you, this was the smallest, darkest, and most cramped boxing gym I’ve ever been in- and I’ve been in a lot of gyms, some in bars and even in private homes. They didn’t have a ring! I spoke to the manager of the gym. We talked a little bit and I gifted him a few of my boxing photographs. We also met all of the boxers that were going to work out that day (all boxing in Cuba is amateur and amateur only- it wasn’t that way in the 20s, 30s and 40s, but it is that way now). My initial reaction was, ”Wow, this venue is impossible to make a good photograph in.” As one of my old friends would say, it was “o’dark 30.” JoAnne stuck her head in and said she’d sit outside. Well, we walked two miles to the gym and I wasn’t ready to walk two miles back so I said, “Let’s make a few frames.” I switched to black and white, went to jpeg fine and shot everything with a 24mm lens. I looked at a few of the images and they seemed to be acceptable. When I went out to get a breath of fresh air, JoAnne was meditating; I asked her if she would like to come back in and she did. Being the seasoned pro that JoAnne is, she made sure she knew exactly where I was shooting and made sure to stay out of my frame as I made sure to stay out of her frame. The two of us danced around this extremely small, extremely hot, extremely dark gym and guess what? The photos turned out to be just fine. Fast forward a week later (the first time we got to a computer) and I looked at JoAnne’s work and I have to tell you it was amazingly great.I loved her images, which shouldn’t surprise me. I’d like to share these images with you as well. There’s no doubt we are going to go back. As a matter of fact, I may look for an angel or two to see if we can go back and make a documentary on Cuban boxing. The number one trainer is Carlos Manuel Miranda La O and the associate trainer is Michell.
Please take some time to read this Wikapedia page on the real Kid Chocolate from the 1930s.