"KISSER" - THE WORLD OF ILLEGAL MALE MODEL BOXING

"KISSER" was a limited edition publication, featuring iO's photographs of the Friday Night Throwdowns. Created with the generous support of WESC. 7,000 copies of the book were distributed at every WESC store internationally, as well as in all the rooms at both Los Angeles Standard Hotel locations, in April, 2011. 


To view a gallery of the images, click here.

Light Weight


"Hit me!"

- James Brown


The less said about a culture that exists off the grid, the better. Like inner city drag racing, the more that is divulged about the who, when and where, the less likely it is to happen. And these fights have already been shut down in New York. There are ring masters and referees, promoters and of course fighters, some of them media figures, but to name them here is to no good purpose. 


Lightning communications make clandestine bouts possible. Fans learn the address within an hour of the first round. Texting is perfect for illicit gatherings, from crap games to mass insurrections. In this case it gives a subculture life.


For this penultimate series of fights in January of 2011, in a squalid hall in Chinatown, a surging crowd of 700 paid $20 each to smoke, drink and watch mid-level male models, casual street fighters, and the tough and not so tough members of various city crews, pound each other into the ply-wood of a makeshift ring, until blood flowed or exhaustion claimed the loser. Knock-outs in such bouts are rare. As in the Vegas arena, in underground boxing it's the ones who train that win. But in the fashion capitol that is New York City, it's not the finest fighters, but the male models that are the draw. To punch someone in the face is to assault their very person, and if they sell that face for a living it is to assault their livelihood as well. But to climb into a boxing ring as if your life didn't depend on you protecting your looks, is to court something way beyond danger. It is to seek the un-erasable, the unpredictable, the corporeal, the real. A blow received from the fist of another fighter is a blow to the superficial, not just of a beautiful face but of the virtual, atom-thin mirages which everywhere stand in for experience. A broken nose is a tattoo designed by chance. It bestows character, battle trophy of both victor and vanquished. These models are out to win dueling scars, and people want to watch that happen.


"Some friends of mine told me about this thing they were doing, pitting their male model friends against eachother in seedy boxing matches. The first night I went I shot seven rolls of film, my body half way in the ring, split and blood flying all around me. A few months later, New York Magazine wanted my images, so I went back and shot again. By now, the illegal boxing matches have gotten so much press they had to stop, so most of these images are from what will have been the last of the now legendary Friday Night Throwdowns."

- iO Tillett Wright

© Copyright, iO Tillett Wright 2012

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