Paul Spadafora has experienced it all: loss of family members, drug addiction, substance abuse, depression, and jail time. Although it was impossible for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based lifestyle photographer Tom Cwenar to erase such a rocky past, he could at least illustrate the strength Paul has gained from it all. Spadafora, who is also known as “the Pittsburgh Kid,” is a notable boxing champion – he has won 48 fights and lost zero.
Approached by Spadafora’s newly hired management team, Tom was given the opportunity to re-brand the athlete as Paul made his comeback both in the ring and his own life. Not long after meeting him, Tom recognized Spadafora’s dedication and passion to the sport, his children, and the city of Pittsburgh. His motivated mindset was contagious for Tom:
“Prior to this, I honestly wasn’t a big boxing fan. I watched occasionally but never thought too much about it. But it has such great content, and when I heard him talk so passionately about it, I wanted to be involved even more.”
Facing the test of shooting both stills and video, Tom made sure to scout a gym location with enough windows to blend with daylight-balanced HMI lights. On production day, Spadafora ran through his workout, exceptionally focused, without worry of the camera’s presence. In post-production editing, Tom made music composition and voice-over decisions along side Jay Green of Big Science. When a basic low-resolution, rough cut was presented to Paul and his family, tears filled the room. It was then that Tom realized how rewarding of an experience this was.
“I just kind of thought it was a really nice artful piece, and I didn’t realize how deeply it touched them because it was a big part of their lives.”
At age 37, Spadafora is only a few years away from retiring his gloves. All of his days, good and bad, will ideally lead up to a fight against the undefeated five-division world champion, Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The brand that Tom and his team created for him was made to show that he’s fearless and hardworking, but also peaceful and harmless. Regardless of the outcome, Spadafora hopes to eventually open his own gym and become a boxing coach. With 19 knockouts to his name, the possibilities are endless.