“Both up to the minute and timeless, Lommasson’s pictures are also affecting, intricate and sometimes just glorious.”  – Time Magazine

Fight clubs are located in the forgotten corners of most American cities. They’re shoehorned into storefronts, basements, or vacant warehouses, usually in the toughest part of town. Inside is a community of fighters, trainers, and hangers-on unknown even to the most ardent boxing fans. The gyms reek of sweat, pounding leather, pounding music, barking trainers, and determination. The gyms are fight factories, sweatshops -- but sweatshops with a mission. In some cases, the local gym is the safest place in the neighborhood.  It’s a refuge, a sanctuary, where children and young adults - many of them drawn to the gym  by chaos or violence in their own lives - learn to channel aggressive impulses in an environment that stresses discipline, hard work, and respect for authority. At some gyms, kids are required to show their report cards before they become members. Other gyms function as de facto day-care centers, with free meals, computers, homework rooms - anything to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble. In communities often polarized by race and ethnicity, gyms are an island of tolerance. It’s a matter of principle as well as practicality. Race, class, even gender are virtually irrelevant in the ring. What matters most are the details of weight, reach, skill, and the indefinable quality that fight people call “heart.” These photographs are from my book, Shadow Boxers: Sweat, Sacrifice and the Will to Survive in American Boxing Gyms.

– Jim Lommasson 

Jim Lommasson is a recipient of The Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Prize from The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University