An Interview with Boxing Photographer Marco Pérez: “The person, the human being, not the boxer, is what matters to me”

10.12.08 - By Jaime Castro-Núñez - I am extremely aware of the fact that this week –if not the rest of the year and probably a good portion of this coming 2009- will be devoted to the catastrophic defeat of Oscar de la Hoya at the speedy gloves of Manny Pacquiao. Understandably, most boxing fans are eager to both read and express their opinions about a boxing era that ended on December 6th, 2008 at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand. And yes, both De la Hoya and Pacquiao deserve a sonorous standing ovation. One is history, the other is present and future.. The Mexican-American represents a decade of heart, power, stamina, skills. The Filipino embodies a new era. I hope Pac defends the “best-pound-by-pound” title with the last drop of his blood, as Alexis Argüello promised in the dressing room to Rubén Olivares in 1974 after capturing the WBA featherweight belt.

In the middle of this DLH-Pac ocean I made a parenthesis in order to speak with an amazing person, a professional who does not throw punches, but flashes. Virtually ignored by everybody in the sport, boxing photographers are as important as writers and commentators. Don’t they? Believing that photographers deserve a portion of the punching bag, I thought it would be interesting to interview Marco Pérez, a boxing photographer who describes himself as a “sincere person who loves boxing.”

Jaime Castro-Núñez: Marco, I know you’re very busy today, so thanks a lot of accepting this interview. What a weekend, huh?

Marco Pérez: No problem, Jaime. It’s my pleasure to be here at ESB. Yes, tremendous weekend, explosive, unpredictable. Pacquiao was huge!

JCN: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

MP: I’m a 40-year-old independent boxing photographer. I live in Miami, Florida, with my wife and four children. I love sports, specially soccer and boxing. I grew up on soccer and I was very good at that, but my mom didn’t want me to be a soccer player. As years went by I stopped playing soccer at a competitive level and got a job selling airplane tickets. Eventually I discovered I had great voice, so I switched gears and dreamed of becoming a journalist.

JCN: So, how did you come to boxing?

MP: Interesting question. By 2003 I knew a lot of journalists who had noticed my newscaster voice. An Argentinean radio station contacted me and asked if I wanted to travel to Phoenix in order to cover a soccer game and interview the players. I said yes and flew with a little digital camera. Once there I met a lady from Telemundo. We covered the game together and I took a lot of pictures with my little camera. I knew how professional cameras looked like and I knew mine wasn’t exactly a good one. Inside the stadium I saw the lenses, the cameras and all those things I always saw on television. That day I felt I had something to do with photography. Three years ago I had the opportunity to cover a fight at the Miccosukee Resort, I don’t remember the name of the fighters, but all I can tell is that at the beginning I didn’t like it because I wasn’t used to watch two guys hitting each other, but in the fifth or sixth round I understood the dynamic and I got that mysterious heat boxing has, you know. Since that day I fell in love with boxing. Nowadays boxing photography is what I enjoy the most because when the time of the fight arrives, I’ve spent already three, fours days with the boxers. Those are kids I’ve interviewed, I know them, I know what’s going on in their lives.

JCN: Are you full time in the business?

MP: Yes, Jaime. Photography is what I’ll do for the rest of my life.

JCN: Don’t you feel like you do a hard job?

MP: Somehow… It’s hard because you’ve to be careful with the people around, but everything is easier when you base your relationships on honesty. I know a lot of promoters, managers, boxers, I respect them and they respect me because I’m very professional. To me the most important thing is the person, not the athlete. The person, the human being, not the boxer, is what matters to me.

JCN: How does photography contribute to the sport?

MP: In many ways! There’re controversial punches that actually change the result of a fight and sometimes the television doesn’t show much. For example, during the second fight of Kendall Holt and Ricardo Torres I was the only photographer who caught the head butt. If you watch the fight it’s difficult to catch it, but when you see my picture you clearly see how Kendall hits Ricardo’s chin with the top of his head. In this particular case, nothing is clearer than the picture I took.

JCN: What’s the best part of your job?

MP: You’re right there! You hear the combinations, you almost feel them. I love it when I get the boxer’s sweat on my clothes…

JCN: And the worst part?

MP: I’m gonna tell you an anecdote. There’s a boxer from the Dominican Republic whom I photographed on the canvas a year ago in Las Vegas. He got floored three times and the way he fell was very dramatic. I got the most spectacular images because while on the canvas he looked at me with those glassy eyes that people love to see. Six months later I published one of those photos in a magazine and I was so unlucky that he saw it while I was taking some pictures to Richard Gutiérrez. He came and insulted me using nasty words, he was very upset. My colleagues supported me saying that was my job, but he could not get rid of it, he was mad at me for publishing him on the canvas.

JCN: Marco, I’ll let you go now, thanks for you time…

MP: Thanks to you and to ESB for making us photographers part of the sport.

Article posted on 10.12.2008

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