POV

Fighters: The Peynaud Brothers

… the twins speak the language of this Old School Brooklyn—a linguistics based on the grammar of blood, fists, scars and knots…

Story and Photos by Lance Steagall - lgsteagall@gmail.com
Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

The body types are slender. Lean limbs and narrow chests: they’re lightweights. Super lightweights at the most. No, the Peynaud twins don’t project violence. They smile often. Speak softly. But, violence’s fingerprints are all over them. On Cedrick’s tonsured head the hair looks like cross hatchings that’ve been erased at the many scar points; an unfinished sketch. Mikael, hair fully drawn, represents the completed portrait of his brother. Up close you see the eye sockets are rimmed with black and blues. The noses bent slightly off center. The knuckles battered.

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

But, what strikes me most about them is that they seem like throwbacks; that these Frenchmen, here in Brooklyn for the first time, evoke an Old Brooklyn, an Immigrant Brooklyn. They’re currently in far-flung Brooklyn, sneezing distance from Queens’ Cypress Hills neighborhood, on a sort of violent pilgrimage; they’ve come to pay respects to the boxing history here, starting with world champion Zab Judah’s gym.

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

And these twins are world champions themselves. In 2011, they both held WKA world titles in kickboxing. But, here at the Judah Brothers Gym their feet are taking a lesser role. They’re throwing hands, sparring with the local talent that’s still bred here, a world away from the New Brooklyn of organic foods and hipster jeans.

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Their trainer, Philip Magnol, and his gym, Club CenVint, are represented to me as meccas in their own right, enjoying notoriety as the place for kickboxing training in France. He is the man who traces the lines in these sketches of violence. Gives form and definition to budding young fighters. And who, in his own way, is responsible for the bent noses, rimmed eye sockets and pencil marks in Mikael’s head; for Cedrick’s crimson-streaked nose that a young black man with green hair has just gifted to him.

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

And the gift is well received. With grace and gratitude. In fact, watching the men interact after the fight it’s clear that the violence in the ring has formed a brotherhood; that despite the fact their English could fit on the back of a judge’s scorecard—that they’ve never before walked Flatbush Ave. or seen the sea at Coney—the twins speak the language of this Old School Brooklyn—a linguistics based on the grammar of blood, fists, scars and knots—better than the lions share of Kings County residents these days.

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

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