The Sportsfile photographer had a notion of capturing a boxing tournament in ageless, Raging Bull-type pictures, and when he saw a pro event being held in the Citywest Hotel in Dublin he picked up the phone.
“I asked if they minded I hung around the changing rooms and so on, and they said ‘no problem’,” says Fitzgerald.
“It was nice to be able to do that without a hundred bodyguards between you and the boxers.
“It was pretty busy there all the same, but it was still nice that everybody was in close together. You know when you go to a gig in a big arena, your favourite band, and you end up saying, ‘I wish I could see that band in my local bar’? It was a bit like that, you could have a bit of crack rather than being distant.” The results you can see on the pages before you. The first thing that strikes the viewer is they’re in stark black and white rather than colour.
“I shot it on manual film lenses both as a challenge to myself and also because I wanted it to look almost film-ish — you know when you look at old boxing pictures you get that atmosphere from them.
“That kind of harsh lighting from above, that helps, and is another reason I went for black and white.
“If those pictures were in colour they wouldn’t be as good because they’d be lit from one side, but the black and white is a better effect. That was what I had in my mind beforehand and it worked out well.
“And the crowd was really into it, they were getting behind the Irish boxers on the card. That helped — every time someone landed a good punch the supporters would go crazy, and I’d turn around and get a good shot, like the lads holding up the camera phones.”
Or like the fighter with his two fists up, wrapped and ready.
“He was doing a bit of shadow-boxing backstage and I was nearby. He just went into that pose naturally, I didn’t even ask, so I got that shot and carried on.
“I probably ended up taking a few too many, actually, because he ended up saying ‘go on’, and sent me off.
“But generally it worked out pretty well. It’s a bit of a fly on the wall situation, you’re hanging around watching them, picking up on what they’re doing before you ever take a picture. Then you pick your moment.
“I always wanted to do something like this, it’s great it worked out so well.”