Words by Cora Veltman, Photographs by Kate Gregg
“If I can’t motivate you to work out, go play soccer of some other s***t,” says a medium height bald guy with a perfectly trimmed mustache. This is Coach Pat of Indianapolis Boxing and Grappling - IBG for short. He stalks between hanging boxing bags in the low ceilinged gym. A class of fighters is leaning against the wall trying to catch their breath, all of which are entirely sweaty from the high-intensity workout. The buzzer ticks, Coach Pat McPherson paces and a flurry of camera shutters snap. There is Kate Gregg, hunched in a corner behind her camera, poised to capture the perfect photo.
“Boxing can get a little intense,” admits Kate. A seasoned artist, Kate has covered mostly boxing, MMA and other variants of this sport for years. Like many artists, Kate aims to make this fascination a full-time hobby. “I spend so many hours doing this, I love it. Someday I’ll be able to quit my day job and do only this. It’s not easy though.” In a world where virtually everyone carries a smartphone, many fancy themselves as photographers with the technology readily available in their pocket. As the cameras in iPhones get better, so do the quality of these amateur shots. Though the importance of good artwork is more valued than ever with popular social platforms. What Kate is doing is on another level- and by no means can she be labeled as a ‘hobbyist’ or simply a ‘Content Creator.’
As a bonafide local artist, she qualified for the Indiana Arts Commission’s On-Ramp Fellowship last year and underwent a rigorous grant writing process and boot camp. Through the course, she was taught how to take her passion and refine it into a potential profit-generating business. “It was a lot of information,” she says, “but I learned a ton.” As one of the recipients, she was given $2k to put toward equipment, additional training or materials related to her business. Money in hand, she set forth to cover two Indianapolis gyms and their journey to the state championship called ‘Golden Gloves.”
Working around the makeshift ring, Kate is trying to capture a sport that is greatly misunderstood. “A lot of people think this sport is just about violence,” sighs Coach Patrick Hutchinson the head trainer for Badd Boyz Boxing, the second gym that Kate is covering extensively. “Really it is about discipline. I get a lot of young fighters in here that come in angry and we work ‘em out, but really, boxing gives them structure.” Kate herself admits that in the years covering fighting, she has discovered the many layers that she sport has to offer.
“I try to capture the team aspect in the gym, and each gym has a featured athlete that I do a portrait session with as they get ready for Golden Gloves.” Kate’s artwork is more than the brutal visuals that you would expect from boxing. She focuses her lens on how the sport builds community and the interactions of the athletes amongst their teams.
Closing in the middle of March, Golden Gloves looms in the distance. Thursdays from March 12th through April 16th, boxers of every weight class and age will be competing for their respective titles. Out of the hundreds of entrants, a very few will move on to the National Championship and up the ranks. Many hope to turn professional and make a living traveling the country making a name for themselves, and only a very, very select handful will have a shot at competing in the Olympics.
As the mechanical buzzer sounds and the row of bodies drop into push up position, it is hard not to marvel at the dedication needed to pursue this road. Hard workouts, diligent eating, and piles of perseverance might give one of these fighters an opportunity to represent their community on a huge stage. Drenched in sweat and fighting for breath, the buzzer rings again and Kate grabs a couple more shots of their faces as they wait for the next round of pain. It’s exhausting even to photograph.
“They think I am crazy.” Laughs Kate as she flips through the images on her camera, making adjustments. “But I really see something beautiful here. If I can show people that, it’s worth it.”
To see Kate’s collection of work go to: https://www.kategreggphotography.com/
For more information on Indiana’s Golden Gloves Tournament, visit: http://www.indianagoldengloves.org/
AMENDED: IN LIGHT OF THE COVID- 19 VIRUS, THIS YEAR’S GOLDEN GLOVES TOURNAMENT HAS BEEN CANCELED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. SEE WEBSITE FOR FURTHER DETAILS