Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Silverglade

26
Nov
16

77 Front Street

77 Front Street

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Gleason’s Gym, 77 Front Street, Brooklyn, November 26, 2016, Photo Credit: Malissa Smith

I first entered Gleason’s Gym at 77 Front Street in January 1997. It was a late morning, during the week, and I’d been working up the courage to cross the divide into a “real” boxing gym for some time.

Entering the second floor boxing emporium was like stepping into history. It fit every image of a boxing gym I’d ever had. It was somewhat dark, even with the light streaming through the wall of south-facing windows. It was cavernous and peopled inside and outside of the three rings with mostly men, but at least one women punching a heavy bag—who I later learned was Jo, wife of gym owner Bruce Silverglade.

The gym also had a smell to it of old sweat and new sweat, and steam heat and wringing wet gym clothes, that was in strong counterpoint to the almost antiseptic feel of every other gym I’d ever been in—health clubs really, which had been where I’d started my first rudimentary foray into the sweet science.

Standing in Gleason’s for the first time, taking in it all, with Bruce touring me around, I felt a mixture of awe and more awe and a dose of anxiety, watching real boxers spar and train, and finally a sense of triumph for having placed myself among the acolytes of a sport that had been contested since Homer had written about it in the 7th century BC.

It was then I came across the quote from Virgil that so lovingly adorns the wall at Gleason’s:

Now, whoever has courage, and a strong collected spirit to his breast, let him come forward, lace on the gloves and put up his hands.

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What I realized on that morning, was that was going to be me. I was going to face my fear. Face a lifetime of not having understood that I could always have crossed the divide of a boxing gym to box—even though I was a girl, it just took doing it to make it happen.

Back when Gleason’s Gym first opened in 1937 in the South Bronx at 149th Street and Westchester Avenue, it was the largest gym in New York City—no mean feat given the popularly of the sport in a town that had been associated with boxing since it first crossed the Atlantic Ocean from England in the 1820s. There were many, many gyms packed into every corner of the City back then, but Gleason’s became synonymous with boxing in the 1940s and 1950s when such champions as Jake LaMotta, Phil Terranova, and Jimmy Carter, called the gym home. Visiting boxers such as Mohammad Ali continued to give Gleason’s even greater cachet when they came up to the Bronx to train ahead of important fights at boxing’s Mecca, Madison Square Garden. The occasional woman boxed there too—including Jackie Tonawanda who trained there shortly before the gym relocated to West 30th Street in 1974.

Gleason’s continued to maintain its legendary status at its new location for the next 11 years before getting the boot when the building they were in turned co-op and they moved out of Manhattan to 77 Front Street in Brooklyn in 1985. Back then, before DUMBO was even a name, the industrial area was a pretty scary place. Bruce said, at the time, anyone coming to the gym was told to “get off in Brooklyn Heights at Clark Street on the 2 or 3 train and walk down along Henry Street.” He told them to walk the long way around rather than risking the walk through Cadman Park from the High Street A and C station or the route from the F train at York and Jay Streets.

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Bruce Silverglade, owner, Gleason’s Gym, November 26, 2016, Photo Credit: Malissa Smith

The new home while out of the way had everything a great boxing gym needed: space and lots of it, a new owner in Bruce Silverglade who having become a full-time partner with Ira Becker brought the enthusiasm needed to keep the sport going at a time when it was waning in the imagination of the public. Bruce also brought the foresight to commit to having women in the gym and at his insistence built a locker room for women and well as men so that women always felt welcome in the gym.

img_5623As place, however, Gleason’s has always meant more, at least to me. It’s the place where I came into my own physically. I learned to overcome fear not of the ordinary kind, but the fear of my own power. Of being able to release my full physical being onto a boxing bag, and eventually in the ring against a person. It’s also where I learned the generosity of boxers. Of the myriad of tips and tricks my fellow boxers offered, and of hearing the ubiquitous “hi ya’ champ,” from one person or another every time I walked through the gym.

Morning, noon, or night, weekdays or weekends, there’s always someone to offer encouragement–even as they may be breaking one’s “chops” so to speak. And if I happen to get something right in the ring, I’ll hear someone sing out about it.

These days, Gleason’s sports six female boxing champions: Alicia Ashley, Heather Hardy, Ronica Jeffries, Sonya Lamonakis, Keisher “Fire” McLeod, and Melissa St. Vil.  And if there’s one thing the gym has brought is a feeling of comfort for women from 6 to 60, and beyond.

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Gleason’s Gym trainers Lennox Blackmoore and Hector Roca, November 26, 2016. Photo Credit: Malissa Smith

When I first stepped into Gleason’s I was 42. These days, at 62, having boxed at Gleason’s on and off for 20 years, I feel it’s my home. As home, however, it’s come to have many meanings: For one, it’s the place where I can feel truly ageless.

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It’s where I’ve penned my Girlboxing blog, and due to the true support and generosity of Bruce Silverglade, it’s where I wrote parts of my book, A History Of Women’s Boxing. More than anything, however, even more than boxing, Gleason’s Gym is where I came into my own as a writer.

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Today, November 26, 2016, marked the last full day of Gleason’s 31 year history at 77 Front Street.

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Come Monday, November 28th, the gym will begin its next incarnation around the corner at 130 Water Street. As Bruce put it, the gym in its fourth iteration is “starting a new chapter.”

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For those of us on the early Saturday morning crew who rattled around this morning, embracing each other and otherwise reminiscing, there was a feeling of camaraderie, awe, and for sure a twinge of sadness. Gleason’s is after all, our collective home, but as Heather Hardy said, “it’s exciting that we are all going over there. And this right here, it won’t be any different from today to Monday.”

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If place is location–then yeah, things will be different, but if place is a state of being then 77 Front Street, will live on for all of us that have called this iteration of Gleason’s Gym home. And sure the paint won’t be peeling in the new place, and it’ll be C-L-E-A-N clean, we all figure after a few weeks that special Gleason’s odor will start to permeate the space, and before we know it the paint will start to peel there too.

19
Nov
12

The first time …

The first time …

Boxing at Gleason's Gym. Credit: Malissa Smith

The first time I walked into Gleason’s Gym in January of 1997, I had a feeling of trepidation mixed with excitement and a healthy dose of exhilaration. This was a real boxing gym complete with the sites, sounds and smells I’d gleaned from a mixture of old boxing movies and my imagination.

Having lived on the Lower East Side as a child, I’d grown up watching men play dominos, so as my eyes took in three enormous boxing rings, my ears were honed in on the thwack of a domino clicking on a small table with three men, each looking like someone out of central casting for the part of boxing trainer, animatedly playing the game.

From the sounds of the dominos to the rhythmic beating of heavy bags, speed bags, focus mitts and bodies, each to its own beat punctuated by the loud dings of the ring clock that kept time at three-minute intervals with a warning at two and a half minutes and a ding at four minutes to start the clock all over again, I was hooked.

The sounds alone were an improvisational cacophony worthy of the best of John Coltrane or Rahssan Roland Kirk — still I felt a bit intimidated asking myself why in the world I was there and what had possessed me to think that I could actually box in a real gym. Sure, I’d taken a boxing class at Eastern Athletic Health Club in Brooklyn Heights and yes, I still remembered the old one-two my uncle had taught me when I was twelve, but this was different. This meant that I’d have to be serious, that the years of watching boxing and thinking about boxing were culminating in my taking those first concrete steps up to the second floor of the Gleason’s Gym building in DUMBO long before it was trendy and filled with cute coffee bars and babies riding around in eight hundred-dollar strollers.

If I’d thought I’d have a fight on my hands as a women crossing the divide of what even I thought of as a male domain I was mistaken.  Quite to the contrary, I was greeted by Bruce Silverglade, the owner of Gleason’s Gym who touring me around made a point to make me feel welcome.

I’d come that day to actually box having brought handwraps and a pair of boxing gloves and while I didn’t really know what I was doing yet, wrapping my hands that afternoon was the beginning of a physical and emotional journey I could not have imagined.

Within a week of that first visit, I’d been taken on for 7:30 AM training sessions three days a week with Johnny Grinnage, a trainer of the OLD old school who didn’t believe in new-fangled things like focus mitts or even the speed bag. His idea of training was beginning a workout using a broom stick for stretches before jumping rope for three rounds. From there it was onto a wall bag to learn how to throw a jab, a straight right and a left hook for three rounds. Those early weeks we’d end the training with three rounds walking up and down the slip rope and it had to have been a least two months before I actually hit a heavy bag.

After those first training sessions I took to writing out my punch counts and found myself punching the air and slipping whenever I could. I also found myself tearing up at the oddest times finding in the extension of my body a connection to a physical power I never knew I possessed–one that left me feeling bereft at the years and years of having never understood how much strength I actually had.

It was the first of many lessons boxing taught me and continues to teach me and while I’ve had an on-again off-again relationship with boxing in the ensuing sixteen years, Gleason’s Gym remains my home and the sport still gives me a warm glow that courses through me when I need a dose of something wonderful.

31
May
12

Kate Sekules and The Boxer’s Heart: A Woman Fighting!

Kate Sekules and The Boxer’s Heart: A Woman Fighting!

As Kate Sekules says of her love affair with boxing in her memoir, The Boxer’s Heart: A Woman Fighting, “I wonder myself what set this obsession in motion.” Kate never stops describing it either, from her affection for the sport on through her experiences beginning with her early forays into the gym and what it felt like the first time she stepped into the ring to fight.  As she says,

“Training to box is one of the toughest physical challenges you can set yourself, and it is clean. But once you step through the ropes, a dimension rears up that is not pure at all. To compete as a runner, a swimmer, a player of tennis, golf, basketball, football-any noncombat sport-what you do is an extension of what you did in training, only more intense; but to compete as a boxer, your aims are suddenly quite distinct from those of your training sessions. You hope to inflict so much pain on your opponents that they fall over and can’t get up.”

Kate’s book is a warm, colorful homage to her years training at Gleason’s Gym — and of the women she trained along side beginning in 1992 on through the late 1990’s. Originally published in 2000, Kate has reissued her memoir with a new afterward to coincide with the historical debut of Women’s Boxing at the 2012 Olympics.

As for the ensuing 11 years, Kate notes the sport has “actually become less visible.” Something we all feel with “more female mis-matches … and more neglect of women’s bouts by mainstream media.”

What comes across, however, in Kate’s highly engaging book is truly the viewpoint of a boxer’s heart.  She shows us her love of the sport, the camaraderie of her fellow boxers and an intimate perspective of the journey of a boxer. As Kate said recently in an interview with Girlboxing, “We confront through boxing the same issues every woman faces,” only in the case of a female boxer we add a touch of “rebellion perhaps and a counter to mainstream culture.”

Kate also made the point that the “book is for men and women about gender roles as much as about the sport.”  Still what Kate provides is a treasure trove of details about the sport at a certain time and place — as well as an intimate portrait of Kate and her cohort of boxing friends all working hard to practice the art they love so much.

These days, Kate can be found back at Gleason’s Gym once a week — after having worked out at Chelsea Piers for a while doing their “Lunchbox” series which she swears was “amazing, he’s really, really good.”  She’s also the owner of Refashioner, a marketplace for pre-owned couture.

The Boxer’s Heart: A Woman Fighting will be hitting bookstores this week — and if you happen to live in Brooklyn, be sure and stop by BookCourt on Friday, June 1st for a live reading!  Details are as follows:

Reading – June 1, 2012 @ 7:00 PM

BookCourt

163 Court Street

Brooklyn NY 11201

To purchase Kate’s Book from Amazon.com click on the link!

23
Feb
12

Gleason’s Gym Second Annual All Female Boxing Clinic!

Gleason’s Gym Second Annual All Female Boxing Clinic!

The World Famous Gleason’s Gym and Brooklyn’s own treasure, will be hosting the second annual All Female Boxing Clinic on April 19, 20 and 21, 2012!

There will be two days of boxing basics followed by a sanctioned all female boxing show.  The training will be handled by Gleason’s top female trainers and our female World Champions.

The amateur show will be sanctioned by USABoxingmetro and will be video-streamed live on www.gofightlive.tv with Gleason’s own Sonya Lamonakis providing the on-air commentary.

Last year’s All Female Boxing Clinic was highly successful with contingents from Great Britain and Germany joining women from all across the United States, as well as former Australian national champion Mischa Merz.

From the Girlboxing perspective, it’s a fantastic opportunity for novices on through established boxers to hone their skills plus have the opportunity to work out with some of the best in the business!

If you are interested contact Bruce Silverglade at Gleason’s Gym.

The telephone number is: 718 797 2872 and the email address is: info@gleasonsgym.net.  You can also check out Gleason’s website here.

The cost of the clinic is $299.00.

Bruce Silverglade was kind enough to sit down with Girlboxing last year, this is what he had to say!

09
Apr
11

Gleason’s Gym – All Female Boxing Clinic

Gleason’s Gym – All Female Boxing Clinic on April 28, 29 & 30, 2011!

Gleason’s Gym will host its first All Female Boxing Clinic on April 28, 29 and 30, 2011 at its headquarters in Brooklyn, New York.

The three-day event will include two-days of boxing training and will culminate in Gleason’s first USA Boxing Metro amateur-sanctioned All Female Boxing Show to be broadcast live on www.gofightlive.tv.

The two-day clinic will focus on a range of boxing skills for beginners and will feature the Gleason’s World Champion talents of Alicia Ashley, Jill Emory, Melissa Hernandez and Belinda Laracuente as well as boxing trainers Mark Breland, Juan LaPorte and Hector Roca.

The clinic is open to anyone with a desire to learn the fundamentals of the sport — and for those who have more skills, opportunities will be offered to perfect your talents.

Having first walked into the door at Gleason’s in 1997, I can personally attest to the genuinely supportive atmosphere of the gym, which has always been particularly inviting to women. It’s also meant that I’ve had the chance to observe first hand the explosion in Women’s Boxing  — as well as the chance to applaud the prowess of Gleason’s many boxing alumni!

Girlboxing recently had the chance to sit down and talk with Gleason’s Gym’s owner Bruce Silverglade about Women’s Boxing (see video below).  As an early proponent of the sport, Bruce has been a champion in his own right through his strong advocacy for Women’s Boxing and continues to provide opportunities for women in the sport from Saturday boxers on through dedicated pros.

Spaces are still available for the chance to perfect your boxing prowess or take the plunge into your first foray into the ring. If you are interested contact Bruce Silverglade at Gleason’s Gym.  The telephone number is: 718-797-2872 and the email address is: info@gleasonsgym.net.  The cost of the clinic is $299.00.  You can also sign-up to participate in the All Female Boxing Show by contacting Angela Querol @ 718-797-2872.




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© Malissa Smith and Girlboxing, 2010-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Malissa Smith and Girlboxing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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