"In the transition they sent the boxing to the catacombs"

David Gistau presents in AS his latest novel, which mixes boxing, mafias and underworld, high society and the world of entertainment and farándula.

What got you hooked on the sport of boxing?

There are two different ways to get there. One is literature, culture. There are people who do not like going to an evening in Fuenlabrada but who do watch boxing movies. I was hooked on the side of the sport. I started boxing as a young man in my neighborhood, with friends.

And your first memories?

It must be the only passion I have not inherited from my father. I made it myself. There was a gym near my house and we wanted to try it out.

Did not anyone catch you?

Man, my generation coincided with the explosion of Poli Diaz, which was a phenomenon when boxing was very depressed in Spain. Then came Javier Castillejo, who being a better boxer and more champion, was not as charismatic as Poli. The big pugilistic night of my generation was when we stood watch to see Poli against Pernell Whitaker in Virginia.

Is boxing a reign for the black novel?

The pros are a little angry with this. They say that the clichés of the black novel stigmatizing the boxing. Many have formed their opinion of this sport by the films of gangsters. They believe that the cultural cliché has eaten the sport. And partly they are right. I myself made that mistake in the novel. But I have not written a journalistic reflection of the world of boxing in Spain. It is a black novel, where everything is dramatized and crimes are invented that do not exist in reality.

What boxing novels were you referring to?

The most, 'Tougher will be the fall', Budd Schulberg. Then he made a movie with Humphrey Bogart. Within which I am a great admirer of the American novel, the particular author who most resembles what I have wanted to do is Budd Schulberg. His is a very sordid and little condescending novel with boxing, very black, of gangsters who squeeze the boxers and then drop them. My novel wants to look like that in the environment, Schulberg being infinitely better at anything I could do, of course. For me, Schulberg is better than Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald, he's an incredible guy ...

You dedicate your novel to Garci and Germán Areta ...

Apart from Garci is a very close friend of mine, we share the fascination with that American novel of the 40, 50 and 60. I dedicated it to him and the character of 'El crack', because Germán Areta is Alfredo Landa, since I thought That Garci wanted to do with the film the same as I did with the book. Garci grabbed the world of Raymond Chandler, of the detectives of the United States, and brought it to Leganitos Street and put him to play mus. I have seized the world of Schulberg, the boxers of the 50s, I have brought them to Lucero and I have started to eat gallines. It's the same experiment.

"I have seized the world of Schulberg, the boxers of the 50's, I have brought them to Lucero and I have put them to eat gallinejas"

How is that boxing environment really?

Much more honest than it seems in my book. And in Spain much more precarious, because here the sport is a little abandoned. It is a world of few people with a very good relationship between them and a sense of empowered fraternity, because they feel abandoned by television and prejudice. It is a world that, moreover, has much vocation of school of little men. It is the self-imposed mission of giving values ​​to the guys who box. Then there are not many gyms that prepare professionals, and there is a lot of relationship between them as well.

How did they welcome you into that world?

Okay ... It's not a hostile world. The boxers are looking forward to taking care of them. I have always tried to write in the boxing newspapers, but not in literary plan, but in the evening. And that has produced much appreciation.

Did you do a lot of fieldwork to write the novel?

It was an involuntary process. I've been there for the last four or five years, boxing amateur, and I've met people. I have been told anecdotes that have been left in the memory as possible material to do this someday. And that has crystallized in the pugilistic part of the novel. Then there is another plot, the one of the presenter (Magda, in the novel) and the crimes. He did not want a novel only contained in boxing, but a black novel. It's not a report ...


You know it's hard for journalists to invent. We are subject to the obligation to be sincere, honest. And when you start to make a novel you have to repeat several times: "Hey, you can make everything up ...". And it makes you weird to say, 'Hala, I'm going to kill an uncle here' (Laughter).

"The new Spaniard reprogrammed for the transition was allowed the bulls, not the boxing"
In the novel faces two worlds: the one of the farándula and the one of the suburb. Which one is more honest?

In the novel the one of the suburb. It is an idealization. I wanted Madrid to be a protagonist, and in this city there are neighborhoods that are watertight compartments that do not come in contact with each other. The boxer of Lucero never goes to Serrano Street. And a neighbor of Serrano is difficult to see in Lucero. My pretext to bring the two worlds together was the romance invented between Alfredo and Magda.

Why has boxing fallen in Spain?

Well, it's something I've talked a lot with its director, Alfredo Relaño, because he did many boxing records. It was a popular passion in Spain in the 1970s. Even Franco's personal physician was the president of the Boxing Federation, Vicente Gil. It is he who creates Legrá, Urtain ... It is a sport that he liked and the regime even decided to make great boxers who were what Primo Carnera in the Italy of Musolini.

And what happened?

Well that was the transition and there was a kind of collective social pedagogy that was intended to manufacture the new Spaniard who was going to live in democracy. And it was decided that boxing was not going to like it. The new Spaniard, within the collective reprogramming, was allowed the bulls, but not the boxing. And they sent that sport to the social catacombs. Suddenly he began to have a bad image and it became a thing of gangsters and macarras. The only exception to that was Poli Diaz.

He talked about football and bulls, two very dramatic ways to get out of poverty ...

And the footballer too, although less tragic, because he does not play life or beat him. But the footballer is also on the road between wealth and poverty. The only sports that are not in it are the university ones, like the basketball, that is not a redeemer of poor at least in Europe, because in the USA it is played in the ghettos. Instead, boxing and bulls have that tragic component. That's what Tyson said when asked what he would have been in another life.

"The situation of boxing in Spain is horrible, even champions like Rubén Nieto need a second job"
What did he answer?

Executing electric chair (laughs). And it's true.

Is boxing cruel?

No, although the end of the novel gives that feeling. My protagonist allowed him to win his title, but in circumstances where he no longer wanted to win. A bitch for him.

And the real boxing?

It has the cruelty indexes of any sport in which you can win or lose. The defeat is cruel for everyone, whether you are a boxer or a footballer. That, without denying the violent component that has boxing, that can affect the health of its protagonists. But, similarly, it is a sport that has protection springs: referees who stop the fight, protective accounts ... That was not done 30 years ago.

In the novel there are two exciting boxing matches.

Especially the second. It is inspired by what Nicolás González and Rubén Nieto did for the European super lightweight championship last summer. It was a superb match in which the two boxers fell to the ground at least once. We saw it in La Cubierta de Leganés and the people stood, hallucinating. It was tremendously intense and beautiful. Rubén Nieto won. The only difference is that that fight was stopped before what happened in my novel happened. That was my silent tribute to those two boxers who staged such a beautiful fight.

At what point is professional boxing in Spain now?

If you compare it to the US, horrible. Even the European champions, like Ruben Nieto, have a second job, as a gardener or chauffeur. But I think that social perception is changing, among other things, because boxing has entered into posh gyms.

Has a window been opened?

The other day I was talking to Jero, my coach. We saw an advertisement for a detergent in which a child smeared his T-shirt with mud not playing football, but sticking to a sack. What brand would you have wanted to relate to boxing a few years ago?
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