For Sale: This Massive, Obsessive and (Probably) Obsolete VHS Boxing Archive
Forty years of boxing matches — as many as 55,000 individual fights — have been painstakingly preserved in a video archive. In the age of YouTube and cloud storage, is it worth anything?
By Alex Vadukul
Rock’ Em Sock’ Em Robots.CreditVincent Tullo for The New York Times
There’s a small apartment on 137th Street in Hamilton Heights that contains one of the most peculiar videotape collections in New York. The dusty VHS archive fills a vast library that contains the analog history of a sport: 8,000 cassettes with recordings of over 55,000 boxing matches that span 40 years.
It was the life’s work of Bela Szilagyi, a classical pianist and passionate fight enthusiast, who started the collection in 1979 when he taped a featherweight title match on a Quasar videocassette recorder. Mr. Szilagyi died in 2012 at 78 years old and his wife, a soft-spoken piano teacher, became the collection’s archivist.
On a recent Sunday night, Elizabeth Szilagyi, 76, commenced her ritual in the living room. She poured herself a glass of red wine, put on her reading glasses, and sat in front of her TV with a notepad in hand to record a welterweight fight at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. She ate a salad while taking notes about the match for the information card that gets filed in the archive. The bell rang and the boxers marched toward each other.