Desire and Dscipline: The Boxing Paintings of Leslie Parke

Leslie Parke, "On the Ropes", oil on canvas

                      Leslie Parke, “On the Ropes”, oil on canvas

After graduate school, my day job was as a sound person for documentary filmmaker Michael Marton. Together we made over seven documentaries, one of which was “Watch Me Now” about Cus D’Amato‘s boxing gym in Catskill, New York. We filmed at the gym for a year and a half, spending Mike Tyson‘s fifteenth and sixteenth birthday with him.

Everyday the routine was the same. The pros trained during the day and the kids, including Mike,  trained at night. Cus, several of the boxers, as well as, trainer Teddy Atlas all lived in a Victorian mansion on the Hudson that was owned by Cus’ sister-in-law Camille. While Cus and Teddy shaped the fighters at the gym, Camille gave them valuable training at home. They learned everything from how to do their laundry to standing and waiting for her to take her seat at dinner. Whether or not these guys were going to make it as fighters, they would know how to behave at a State dinner. (OK, maybe all the lessons didn’t stick, but many did.)

Once, after dinner, Cus and I were having coffee and he asked me, “What are the two qualities you need to be  a great fighter?” I’m thinking –strength, power, speed, heart — when he answered his own question, “Desire and discipline.”

To be continued . . .