Boxing in Cuba is not merely a sport. Boxing is the opportunity for young men to escape the lack of perspective in their normal lives. And boxing offers a realistic chance to achieve upward social mobility in the future.
At the end of 2015 the Munich photo artist Katharina Alt set out with her camera for Cuba to discover and document the traces of the country’s boxing culture. For many decades the boxing athletes from this Caribbean island have been considered the most successful in the world.
Despite the most rudimentary training conditions, the athletes manage time and again to win against opponents in World Championships and the Olympic Games thanks to their best possible efforts and dedication to this sport. The unique portraits captured by Katharina Alt are not limited just to the favorites for the coming Olympic Games in 2016 in Brazil. Rather, the photographs show work with youth at modest sports schools in Havana. It is these schools that have taken on the important challenge of pointing out new perspectives for young people and give them a feeling for a real future.
Katharina Alt portrays not only legendary boxers like Emilio Correa Vailant (Padre) who won a gold medal at the 1972 Olympics in Munich or his son Emilio, the gold-winning Olympia athlete in Barcelona in 1992. Women boxers, trainers and scouts, referees and team doctors, young athletes and amateurs are also shown in individual snapshots of the Cuban boxing scene.
In the middle of the portraits, the exhibition displays a real Berg boxing ring. It’s old, dating from 1965, is still in use and therefore radiates true authenticity.
At the same time, the dense atmosphere of life today in Cuba looks out from the background of the photographs: squares, streets, entire quarters of Havana which no tourist brochure can reflect in this way. Quite incidentally, the location of the sports schools, their neighbourhoods and organic embeddedness in each of the different environments reveal themselves to the visitor.