Rod Blagojevich in the boxing ring
Illinois governor was once a Golden Gloves boxer
More than 30 years ago, photographer Richard Younker stepped into a crowded St. Andrew's Gym on Chicago's North Side, looking to capture some arresting images from a Golden Gloves boxing competition.
He was standing ringside before a fight when a wiry kid with a sculpted helmet of hair—future Gov. Rod Blagojevich—asked him to take his picture. Younker remembers Blagojevich was the only fighter that year who asked—but without the request, Younker said he never would've snapped the pictures.
"I sort of pick out subjects whose faces look interesting," Younker said Friday. "I saw him there and said, 'This is definitely not somebody I'm going to photograph.' "
But Younker obliged, snapping three shots of the 18-year-old Blagojevich, including one in which he winks Palin-like while his coach appears to advise him.
Through a spokesman, the governor confirmed Friday that it was him in the picture, and he identified his coach as Jerry Marzullo.
The future governor, in Younker's memory, lost his fight that March night. Another coach, Pat LaCassa, told the Tribune in 2006 that Blagojevich, who had a short boxing career, lost his final fight because he kept his gloves up to defend his face.
Younker has had several books of his photographs published; these photographs have never been published before.
Younker encountered Blagojevich twice more after he entered politics, developing a stronger take on the man now accused of corruption.
"My other impression was this guy's a hustler," Younker said.
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