Boxe is a personal revolution

In boxing there is an epic tale that you only understand when you ecounter it

‘The ocean is an immense, quiet storm. The waves sweep it, descending to unexplored depths, as dark as they are luminous’

The Homeric extension of the water hides the mysterious turbulences, the sharp twirls of the whirlpools, the jagged noise of the movements that shake it. The ocean is powerful and angry, yet apparently calm. Like a boxer in the ring, waiting for the fight to start: “Boxing is the antidote to the hardships you feel inside,” she says.

A woman is also a pair of boxing gloves. Silvia Bortot started wearing them early on, an ideal complement (or vice versa) to a tattooed body filled with portraits that rally a spirit dedicated to battle. A Japanese woman warrior, a samurai capable of fight- ing for a shogun, or fighting to defeat him: Silvia did the tattoo herself, with needles to depict an ink painting on her taut muscles. She fights with a tenacity that comes from a life on the road.

Far and wide across the Veneto, the industrious North- East of Italy, between Treviso, Padua, Verona and Mestre: “I’m a girl who always has a suitcase in her hand,” she says. Her hand, however, knows how to strike. And the other, when her guard is up, is raised to defend herself. Is femininity a clash, or an encounter? Another tattoo across Silvia’s body is the answer that cancels out the question mark: “A whale. It means family, protection. The adventure of Pinocchio, being reunited with his father, Geppetto. The whale is strength, but also depth. It descends, to the depths of a boundless sea. Of the ocean.” The sense of exploration returns, therefore, the sense of a journey.

The girl with a suitcase in her hand: it sounds good, just like the title of a best-seller or an art film. Travelling, going: Silvia Bortot does it for work – she’s a graphic designer.

A creativity that comes from street art and graffiti – but her heart is in the middle of the ring: “I was born to fight. Boxing is a way of being. But it’s also imagination, fantasy. Muhammad Ali was an artist. In boxing there is an epic tale that you only understand when you encounter it. Whether you win, or you get flattened. You’re there on the mat and the only thing you can do is get up. If you can’t, you accept defeat, but in your mind you already have the desire to start fighting again.” Silvia’s body, Silvia’s mind. A punch taken, another given.

And when she tells you that “the answer to difficulties is imprinting”, you perceive that it’s not a slogan. There’s no speculation. In that instant prose combines with poetry.

The ocean, again: “I’m like a wave,” she says, and she holds back a sigh. Boxing is a mission, one that you accomplish by faith-based proselytising. Silvia is devoted to it, a believer who recites her prayers between a jab and an uppercut, studying Cecilia Brækhus, the splendid Amazon who descended to this planet from a galaxy in which there is a ring in every star: “Box- ing saved my life. It’s not just a sport: it’s magic, a metaphor of our existence. A companion that I always have with me, day after day,” continues Silvia.

She speaks with the awareness of those who have made a long journey. Again, there you have it, the journey. With the same suitcases, often heavier than her gloves, more painful than a direct jab to the chin. To depart, to leave, to abandon. To be abandoned. To find yourself again, though, and to come back. Here is the whale. Here is the ocean.

Here is the wave: “Like the one painted by Hokusai. And that’s where Japan comes into it again. The Orient has been my personal revolution since I was a child. I used to pretend I was a ninja. Yes, like the Turtles from the cartoon. I dressed up like Leonardo and I ran up and down the stairs. Then came the passion for Bruce Lee. It all started from there.”

What Silvia means by “all” is a road that has led her from Thai boxing to kickboxing, and then to her love for boxing, and a bond that can only be called symbiosis.

An encounter dictated by fate: “I played tennis, but just one tournament, I lost in the finals because of a bad call by the umpire. I couldn’t bear it. The disappointment was so great that I stopped playing. I didn’t know that that would be my good fortune.”

Destiny, always destiny. Kickboxing disappeared thanks to another trick of fate: “I got injured during a game of beach volley- ball, while I was on vacation. A broken knee: I could no longer use my legs to fight. And without fighting I felt that there was something that I was missing, an emptiness to fill. That’s why I started to box.”

The girl with the suitcase in her hand, now, is a prophetess of boxing who officiates the rites of what is both an orthodox and a secular religion. The teaching in the gym and the “Sons of Heracles” project, to give the psychological preparation for combat sports.

The ring calls, you hear the bell: “Boxing is not violent, quite the opposite,” says Silvia.
Then she bends to climb through the ropes, with her gloves, her hair tied back, her tattoos that rise up like the wave she has inside. Another challenge, another round.

The sound of the gong.


PH Margareth Gaspàr
TEXT Matteo Fontana


April 7, 2020

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