Shooting a Heavyweight Title Fight

By Gustavo Fadel, Shutterstock Submitter

Story Behind the Photo

is an ongoing series that highlights a unique story behind a photo or photos taken by a Shutterstock submitter. This month’s featured story comes from Gustavo Fadel. Mr. Fadel recently participated in Shutterstock’s On The Red Carpet program, which specializes in obtaining media clearance for Shutterstock photographers to access celebrity-themed or newsworthy events – in this case, the December 2008 Holyfield versus Valuev title fight in Zurich, Switzerland. The On The Red Carpet program is a great way for subscribers to source Shutterstock images for editorial usage. Learn more about the On The Red Carpet program here.

I began my foray into photography just a few years ago, and like many first time photographers, it was love at first sight. Living in a country as beautiful as Switzerland, with its countless breathtaking landscapes, provided me plenty of subject matter to keep me busy for a long time. However, after a while, landscape photography wasn’t fulfilling my needs anymore. I began to experiment with other areas, including weddings and nightlife. Again, I had a great time, but I soon realized that what I really wanted to do was shoot sports.

Then last year I heard about Shutterstock’s On The Red Carpet program and I instantly saw this as a chance to cover a sporting event properly. The problem was, no good events were scheduled in Switzerland at that time. However, I later learned that American boxer Evander Holyfield was coming to Zurich to fight the Russian Nikolai Valuev for the WBA heavyweight belt, in December 2008.

I told myself, “This is it; this is what I’ve been waiting for!”

But where to start?

To my surprise, with a little research and two phone calls, I had collected all the information I needed to submit my press pass application. The whole process was easy and smooth, and the On The Red Carpet team did a great job.

At last, the day of the fight arrived, and I was very excited about it. It was not only going to be my first live boxing event, but also my first experience as a member of the press. A few hours before the event, I reported to the accreditation counter to collect my press pass and gain access to the venue.

My next step was to find the best position. Holyfield’s fight was the last of the day, so I took this extra time before the fight to walk around, take some shots from the first few fights, and check out the other photographers to better understand the dynamics of a boxing match. I quickly realized that this was a “top” boxing event, and securing a good spot wasn’t going to be easy. I found a place early on where I thought I could get some good shots and waited.

When the fighters came into the arena, it was clear that the public was totally in favor of Holyfield. Although Valuev is a giant, I am sure he felt tiny under the pressure of the crowd in Zurich that night.

The bell rang and the fight began. I could not lose too much time, because you never know if someone will be knocked out in just a few seconds. Like the fighters you’re photographing, you need to be fast, because it might be your only chance. Luckily, the fight was decided by the judges – I had 10 rounds to take my pictures. I was therefore able to move around, chasing the best angles.

When the fight was over and the decision announced – giving the victory to Valuev – the crowd strongly expressed their disapproval. The press there also seemed to agree the decision was unfair to Holyfield.

Afterwards, during the press conference, Holyfield and his trainers made it clear that they disagreed with the judges’ decision. They even called for a rematch, right here in Zurich. This sounds fine to me ““ I would love to have another chance to photograph a world-class sporting event.