There’s a small rental on 137th Street in Hamilton Heights that carries one of the maximum extraordinary videotape collections in New York. The dusty VHS archive fills a giant library that consists of the analog records of a recreation: 8,000 cassettes with recordings of over 55,000 boxing matches that span 40 years.
It turned into the lifestyles’s paintings of Bela Szilagyi, a classical pianist and passionate fight fanatic, who started out the collection in 1979 whilst he taped a featherweight name match on a Quasar videocassette recorder. Mr. Szilagyi died in 2012 at 78 years antique and his wife, a smooth-spoken piano instructor, have become the gathering’s archivist.
On a recent Sunday night time, Elizabeth Szilagyi, seventy six, began her ritual within the living room. She poured herself a glass of red wine, put on her reading glasses, and sat in the front of her TV with a notepad in hand to record a welterweight fight on the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. She ate a salad whilst taking notes about the match for the records card that gets filed inside the archive. The bell rang and the boxers marched closer to every different.
“The fights are becoming dull now,” she stated. “Everything is soft and controlled.”
The opponents traded blows.
“Pacquiao came lower back currently, but he’s past his prime,” she stated. “I constantly preferred De La Hoya. He looked harmless, however he knew what he turned into doing.”
One fighter were given stung at the jaw with an uppercut. Ms. Szilagyi jotted down the element in her notepad.
“He’s over,” she stated. “The ref is going to forestall it. Too awful. He’s a good fighter.”
Ms. Szilagyi ejected a disc from a recorder — the archive transitioned to DVD some years ago — and scribbled some facts onto it earlier than slipping it away right into a shelf. These days, the gathering rarely gets site visitors and dirt has grown thick across its cassette containers.
She held a framed image of her husband, Bela, smiling beside Muhammad Ali. “Before he died, he informed me: ‘The series goes on forever. It has to head on,’” she said. “But he left that for me to sort out.” Last 12 months, Ms. Szilagyi made the anguished choice to wind down her duties as an archivist and try to sell the collection.
“I’ve decided this can’t be the rest of my existence anymore,” she said. “If the collection is right here, he’s nonetheless right here. But he left me with an albatross, and I just don’t have extra to provide. I suppose he’d understand. Everyone has stated I want to transport on. I’ve informed them, ‘I’ll stop when I’m ready.’ Now it’s time to permit cross.”
Ms. Szilagyi’s attempts to loose herself of the gathering have proved tough, but, and he or she’s struggled to discover a marketplace for the videotapes within the YouTube era. For many years, the archive filled a gap within the boxing international, operating as a word-of-mouth videotape condominium service for networks desiring archival footage, fighters trying to have a look at fighters, and combat buffs seeking obscure bouts, however that commercial enterprise has dried out in latest years.
She’s been coming near museums, public sale homes, and sports activities historians approximately shopping the collection, she stated, but interest has been muted. “I’m hoping to get an excellent number, but at this point I’m open to anything,” she said. “I can’t escape from it. I can’t now not see it. I can’t depart without taking into account it. It has a lifestyles of its very own now.”
Bela Szilagyi changed into a celebrated live performance pianist and his love of boxing made for a poetic assessment that humans remarked on his entire lifestyles. As a infant, he performed at Carnegie Hall after which studied at Juilliard, and he might concentrate to fights on the radio as a reward from the rigors of exercise. Mary Elizabeth Brett met him in 1964 while she studied with him. On one in all their first dates, he took her to a fight at Madison Square Garden. “I take into account in case you sat too close to the hoop you’d end up with pink spots on your garments,” she stated. They married in 1968 and toured as an act that achieved classical piano duets.
Mr. Szilagyi’s collection commenced humbly enough. He recorded the first tape in 1979: Danny “Little Red” Lopez as opposed to Robert Castanon. But he quickly had grander visions, seeing himself as a curator of boxing history. He started out taping each combat he should and typing up opinions of every bout. When Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson in 1990, Bela wrote a breathless dispatch: “Douglas has stood the boxing international on its head and now calls the photographs,” he wrote. “Was it a fluke, or is Tyson completed? A CLASSIC FIGHT.”
Ms. Szilagyi every so often concerned approximately his interest. “Here is the man I love,” she said. “I questioned, ‘Is this what my marriage is going to seem like for the rest of my life?’”
By the mid-1980s, word had unfold about the gathering and promoters, fight lovers, and networks were calling the Szilagyi condominium for tapes. A apartment carrier, Captain Video Boxing, become based. Their customers, Ms. Szilagyi stated, included promoters like Don King and the groups of warring parties like Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, and Oscar De La Hoya.
Teddy Atlas, who helped educate Mike Tyson as an amateur, remembered counting on the archive. “Everyone used Captain Video,” he said. “If I wanted to see how a fighter become in the ring, I’d name them to get the tape. If I was schooling a fighter, we’d get the tape to look at opponents.” He delivered: “Its relevance has been dwindled with the passing of time. Now it’s a factor that represents a man’s love for boxing.”
Mr. Szilagyi died in 2012 and a mix of classical musicians and boxing enterprise personalities attended his funeral. By that point, his collection became turning into an increasing number of obsolete. Just approximately every combat turned into available online, and you didn’t need to trek up to Hamilton Heights and discover a operating VCR.
Today, Ms. Szilagyi nevertheless has some loyal clients who rent tapes, she said, along with an antique Atlantic City matchmaker and a creation employee inside the Bronx. Her youngest daughter, Anda, forty one, grew up round the gathering and helped record fights while her dad and mom were away.
“This has all been part of a grieving manner for her. It became in no way pretty much the tapes,” Anda stated. “But it’s time for her to live her own existence once more. She’s no longer only a widow. She’s plenty greater than that. She’s an exceptional pianist and trainer.”
The other night, as Ms. Szilagyi recorded a fit, a fighter was knocked out. She placed on her studying glasses and dutifully jotted, “KO,” into her notes. After taking a sip of wine, she stated that she nevertheless senses her husband’s presence inside the condominium. “When there’s a big fight on — and handiest then — the light above my TV turns on and glints,” she stated. “I assume that’s Bela announcing howdy.”
She doesn’t recognize what the destiny of the gathering might be. The gives she’s received have been miserly, she said, and she or he’s suspicious it’ll get poorly taken care of. “I want to dispose of it, however it’s very important to me it finally ends up inside the proper fingers,” she said. “It might be tough. Like he died again. At least it’d be long past.” She admitted briefly considering a drastic measure: What if she just tossed the videotapes out onto the road?
“I don’t assume I should do that,” she stated. “That might be cruel. Bela would come back. That mild could begin going off like crazy.”