I’m not from Rome. But I live in Rome and have lived there for a long time. Understanding a city like Rome is not easy, and even less so if you were not born there. You have to go beyond that glossy surface that everyone knows and breathe the air of those streets where. If you are not from here, you don’t set foot there. The Quadraro is the largest and most densely populated district in Europe. It is a working-class neighbourhood in Rome, a city within a city. When you are born and grow up in this kind of place, it is hard to have points of reference. Many people just get lost. Trying to survive is a necessity. This is done in a wide variety of ways and one of them is a sport. For the Quadraro, the word sport means only one thing: boxing. For forty-five years there has been an abandoned car park in Via Treviri, behind Largo Spartaco. In 2009, that car park was occupied and became the focal point of the entire neighbourhood. Quadraro Boxe was born in that car park. It is not a gym like any other: like its neighbourhood, it is popular. A popular gymnasium in a popular neighbourhood.
Fighting with grace
The beauty of fighting with grace even in the face of life’s innumerable slips is a lesson at least a hundred years old that Hemingway and others have branded into people’s imaginations and the pages of their books. To think that it was plausible or at least remotely approachable as a concept I found it almost impossible. Instead, it happened. I have been with the boxing group of Silvano Setaro, master of Quadraro Boke, since 2020. He does not care who you are, where you come from or what you want to do in life. The only thing that matters to him is that you can do this but you have to put your all into it. If I have understood anything from him in a year, it is that boxing is not a physical, contact, violent sport. Boxing is a sport of the soul that helps you fight gracefully against the countless slips of life. Some are better at it or those who, like many, unfortunately, give up. The one who has not given up is Armando.
Armando, one of the neighbourhood
Armando is a 21-year-old boy. Armando is a typical guy from the neighbourhood. Tattooed, dyed hair, listening to the music of the moment, playing video games. Armando, however, fights. He fights because he is a professional boxer, he fights not to lose himself, to continue where so many before him have stopped. Armando has talent and has known it since he was little more than a child. But he also knows that he must cultivate this talent with hard work and perseverance to not let it fade away. When he was thirteen years old he joined a gym out of boredom, as so many boys do, and he realised he had this vocation there. From that moment on, boxing became his sole motivation in life. Those four corners, those twelve ropes, that sack, those gloves, that sweat, those bandages, those scars, those black eyes. Since then Armando has lived for this. Sometimes Armando thinks he is not up to it despite sixty fights under his belt, the last three of which are as a professional. As a professional, he never lost. As an amateur only a couple of times. But Armando has talent. Silvano knows this, and Armando is also aware of it.
Out of awareness come the best things
The fact that I’m not from Rome is an awareness. The fact that Armando has talent is an awareness. I have found my Rome. Armando has found Boxing. Sometimes being aware is hard. It happens that Armando’s fears turn into anxiety attacks and isolation. Because Armando is also aware of something else: his surname. Armando’s surname is no ordinary one. It is a heavy surname: Casamonica. When you are born in a neighbourhood like Quadraro and you are called that, you know that your destiny is already sealed, if not for you, at least for others who immediately label you. And with such a label on one’s shoulders, there are only two possibilities: to be crushed by it or to choose to be oneself.
Choosing to be oneself
Armando chose the second one. Armando Casamonica has chosen to be simply Armando. He did this while continuing to love his family – his most loyal supporters. He did this by calling himself ‘The Fury of the Quadraro’, but only on merit in the ring. Outside the ring, Armando fights differently. He does this against people’s prejudice, against all forms of criminality, against their fears. Armando goes along the road he has chosen, until the last jingle of the gong, until the last minute of training, and the last street of Quadraro.