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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2007-05-23

Behind the Scenes of The Fight of the Decade
By Robert Beck, Sports Illustrated

Photo by Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated
The emails started back in early March with Sports Illustrated boxing editor, George Washington asking if I would like to get in on the Oscar De La Hoya - Floyd Mayweather boxing gig, shoot some portraits for a possible cover then cover the fight in May.

It was being touted as "The Fight of the Decade".

I told George I'd love to and asked "Where are they training?"

"Las Vegas and Puerto Rico," answered George.

"Why is Oscar training in Las Vegas?" was my reply.

It was then I found out that Oscar had married Puerto Rican singer Millie Corretjer and now resided on a Caribbean Island. Time was tight for me in March and April with Spring Training, March Madness and golf at Doral, the first LPGA major in Palm Springs and The Masters.

The first shoot ended up falling on the Nabisco LPGA dates so I was "relieved" of that assignment. I was off to Vegas for a day of shooting with Floyd Mayweather.

Mister Kinno was in Japan so I asked Welch Golightly to give me a hand. Welch has worked with me before and frequently assists Walter Iooss. He knows how to handle big jobs and wets his pants at the sight of a boxer (he at De La Hoya's trainer Freddie Roach's gym.). I knew he would be perfect.

Welch told me he would handle everything from his end once I told him what we were looking for. So when we met up at Floyd's gym in Sin City he did not disappoint. He had a second grip AND a cargo van full of every known combination of grip/lighting equipment. That sure makes my job easier. My job? Shoot the training session then get a portrait inside the ring for some posed action and then on the gym floor to run through the typical boxing poses on a white backdrop. That's a lot of stuff to shoot in one day.

But one day it was.

Floyd showed up with a huge entourage and played hard-ass while he loosened up and had his hands wrapped. Giant security types closed and stood guard at the door while Floyd went through his workout. Everyone but his Dad was there. It was quite a one-man show. The kicker came when he wanted to show one of his sparring partners "how it's done." He threw 1000 punches in a row at a heavy bag, did a James Brown routine...Then did it again.

Photo by Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated

Floyd Mayweather
He entertained all throughout the workout while being followed by a personal videographer and personal photographer...And me. After the workout he interviewed with our writer and told stories for about an hour. I was fretting our time a bit by then but I figured he'd be ready when he was ready.

We did the ring shots first. In front of two strip boxes for side lights, one high rim light and a high , small softbox in front he put on a pair of pink gloves and hopped into the ring. We greased him up and he ran through a hundred different looks. He had told me not to tell him what to do. "I know what you're looking for," he said. And he did. Mayweather is boxing's runway model.

After the ring shots we headed to the seamless and he ran through another hundred poses in front of an Octabank and four backlight umbrellas. He was polite, professional and witty. Afterwards he cut off his hand wraps and signed one each for Welch and myself. Floyd had been great...Not at all like the trash talking punk HBO's 24/7 portrayed him to be. It was a long day but a good one.

Now, hopefully, De La Hoya would be equal to the task.

The schedule, or lack thereof, was the problem with Oscar. His people did not want to clear time for us as SI For Kids and SI Latino had already shot him. Time is precious for these guys.

Every media outlet wants a piece of them. And HBO was following both for their 24/7 series. Finally they said we could shoot Oscar on media day in Puerto Rico. That was after the Masters and during my son's vacation. Not so hot but sometimes these things are out of our control. The editors wanted me to shoot Oscar because our cover was going to be a composite of the two boxers and since I had shot the front end (Mayweather), they wanted me to get the back end as well. I signed Welch up for Part Two.

Kojo was back from the Motherland and wanted in. He'd have to put up with Welch calling him the junior varsity. Those two organized the logistics for grip and lighting gear while I took care of lodging. I met up with them in San Juan after covering the Masters.

Photo by Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated

Oscar De La Hoya
San Juan was a warm welcome after the frigid temps we had in Augusta. The hotel was not in the best location but worked fine. Downstairs was a very good French restaurant that featured outdoor seating next to the hotel pool. Kojo was the featured entertainment for diners one night...performing endless cannonballs. How would you like to seduce your date to that background?

Oscar's gym was at a national sports complex just outside of San Juan. We signed up Sports Shooter International Advisor Gabriel "Gabby" Gonzalez Gonzalez to help us negotiate the highways and anything in EspaƱol. We hit the gym the night before the shoot and set up our lights and shot a test. We marked all of the lighting spots and struck the set.

Bright and early we returned to the gym to set everything back up. It was hot. It was humid. We sweated buckets. Oscar was about an hour and a half late but amiable...And sported a slight shiner under his right eye. "Can you Photoshop that out?" pleaded one of the PR types.

Oscar had his hands wrapped while a crowd of journalists began to swell outside. A mariachi band kept them partially entertained. It was like we had the Beatles locked up inside with us. Now we were pressed for time. We greased Oscar up and put him through the same drills as we had with Floyd.

We had to coach Oscar a bit more and we had to complete some alterations on his shorts that were about two inches too large. After we finished our portraits the crowd was let in. It was a zoo. Oscar went through a short workout for the media. It was an oven in that place, with that many people in there. But we got what we needed....Some filler shots of him working out with trainer Freddie Roach.

Photo by Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated

Action from the Mayweather vs. De La Hoya fight in Las Vegas.
Now it was on to the bout. Cinco de Mayo and the crowd in the MGM were flush with entertainment royalty. Jack, Magic, Michael Jordan, Will Ferrell, Jay Z, Ice Z, Cube T, Mr. T, J Lo, B Hive, Matthew McConaughey, Diddy, Marc Anthony (yech!), Eva Longoria, John Cusack, Mary J Blige, Jimmy Carrey, Jenny McCarthy (remember her?), Fiddy Cent, Jed Jacobsohn and the Pope.

Actually, I don't know if the Pope was there or not.

I know the rest of those people were there because the announcer said so. Of course, he said Tiger Woods was there too...But Tiger was busy winning over a mill at the PGA tournament on the East Coast. I did see Jed. He was shooting from an upper spot with me. Our magazine leaves ringside duty to the fabulous Johnny Iacono. He may not have updated his SportsShooer.com site lately (over 1500 days ago) but he can shoot the F out of a boxing match.

Anyway, shooting raw and JPEGs on a Mark IIN at 1600ASA_1/800_f2.8 we went the full 12 rounds. Welch logged in the cards as I shot and swapped out lenses...

And yelled a lot.

I got a ton of Oscar jabbing. Oscar chasing. Oscar hooking. Oscar attacking. And...Oscar lost. That's boxing. And one long-ass assignment, one Welch will never forget. I suspect one that, if I'm lucky, I'll get to do again before the rematch.


(Robert Beck is a Sports Illustrated staff photographer based in Southern California. When he is not walking the links covering the PGA for SI, he is playing his Hammond B-3 or surfing with his trusty companion/assistant Kojo. You can view his work at: http://www.sportsshooter.com/beck and at his personal website: http://www.robertbeckphotography.com)

Related Links:
Beck's member page

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