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Gleason’s Was Movin,’ But It’s Still Groovin/Water St Location Getting Raves

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The old gym, and the collection of blood and sweat and tears and odors, opened up in 1985. Some of the people at the new gym, which opened for business on Monday, Nov. 28, had more hair then, maybe even fashioned into a mullet!…and were settling into another term with Ronald Reagan at the helm steering this grand experiment in democracy called the United States of America.

Mike Tyson’s brand of cyclonic pugilism was rolling out to more of the masses and with him at the forefront, boxing had itself moving into a bit of a golden age.

Today, the mullets are gone, summoned only when Poloroid snaps are trotted out…and our grand experiment still hurtles forward, currently helmed by an engineer whose expertise in the business realm gained him entry into a sphere which makes his old stomping grounds seem like a zone of quaint gentility. But still, then and now,  Gleason’s sits, welcoming persons to drop those beads of sweat, liquid testaments to a person’s desire to activate their mind and body into a transformative state, and act as a canvas for that spilled blood and those tears which serve to rid the psyche of accumulated dread and fear.

The joint now resides on Water Street, not Front St, and oh how the neighborhood has changed. Streetwalkers used to provide cover for deviants after the sun dropped the darkness gave cover to hasslers and hustlers and dealers and wanderers who have scattered and died off now that the square footage in this section of Brooklyn called DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) makes building owners and real estate agents happy and pretty much all others furrow their brow. Bruce Silverglade braved the terrain then, when he’d wake up at about 4 am, as he does today, and make his way over to the best known boxing gym on this planet. He has an easygoing vibe which was a repellant to a off kilter crackhead looking for a mark, and he didn’t consider yanking up stakes and finding another borough or hood to call home when his landlord told him he had other plans for Front Street. The guy had a space a hop and half a skip way, on Water St, with comparable square footage and Silverglade looked at it, pictured a new facility, with pretty much the same setup and vibes, but better bathrooms and pulled the trigger.

The morning of Nov. 28, he glared at his alarm which tortured him at 4 am, washed up, clothed himself and put the key into the door which opened up the Water Street version. Dead quiet at that time, he saw the rings, and the fresh paint, unshipped, and walked into his office, on the right hand side of the lot, and gazed at pics of Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali and started another day as the head of the fight factory which today serves more folks looking for a superior workout than prizefighters honing skills which they hope bring them to the big time.

“The majority of the physical move was done prior to Sunday,” Silverglade told me in a visit meant to get a sense of week one in the new digs.

Earnie Shavers and Bruce Silverglade joined by Roberto Duran.

Earnie Shavers and Bruce Silverglade joined by Roberto Duran.

“I had very mixed emotions, this location is beautiful, it’s big. We have the F train and the A and C are close, and the 2, 3 and the B25 bus stops right in front. And there’s ample parking, so it’s easy to get to. People remember the Front Street as a fun place to be, and an old place, and people never complained to me, but I know they didn’t like my bathrooms. Now they’re going to love my bathrooms, they’re brand new showers and bathroom and lockers, everything is nice and new. So the environment here is still a boxing gym, can still train to become a champion, you’re just going to have a great place to wash up afterwards.”

Silverglade comes in, does his workout, checks emails, and then the fun starts. Calls from all over the world, people looking to visit, film companies seeking a place to shoot. He didn’t suffer any nightmares or excessive anxiety in the lead to the switch, he told me, but yeah, moving is a pain in the ass. “I’m a small business owner, it’s costly, and it’s nerve wracking. Think about moving your apartment…I had 15,000 square feet to go through.” He had a nostalgia surge going through old and thought to be lost material. “I anticipate new stories and new champions and we’ve already booked a couple shoots here for TV shows. The membership is fine! We’re at 718-797-2872…Anybody 6 to 83 can come…that’s what my age range is now. I’m hoping the 83, he has a birthday soon! 68 nationalities have trained here, it’s a melting pot, the last melting pot!”

I walked the gym, asked people what they thought. I got great feedback, one negative though was that there was too much space in the bathrooms. LOL, that’s a New Yorker for you, thrown off by too much space while urinating…

Hector Rocha, a four decades fixture, was the first man I saw walking in. “Clean, lot of people walk in a say, “‘Oh shit,” he told me they say, indicating people groove on the cleanliness.

Don Malitz sat behind the check in guest and he too reported the response to the new facility has been unrelentingly positive. “Everyone has been coming in, shaking their head in appreciation, and looking around and liking it.”

Pro 154 ace Yuri Foreman…

Yuri Foreman

Yuri Forman (Photo: nydailynews)

…was there, training clients and then later he’d be doing his own work, as he awaits final word on a possible tango with the Cuban ace Erislandy Lara. “Down went Castro, down will go Lara,” I cracked. “And Castro went down on Black Friday,” replied the Rabbi, who owns a quite progressive political philosophy. “Yuri, you making America great again,” I joked before letting him instruct a client. There was pro heavyweight Deric Rossy, ever genial and chuckling, with trainer Grant Seligson. Rossy is deserving of a big fight, being that he deserves five more wins than his record indicates and he’s never in a bad fight. Maybe the new place and a new year gets this good man what he deserves.

Eric Kelly (his portion starts at 4:04) sat on a weight bench which came from Front Street, and talked about upcoming fights on the pro scene.

Tevin Farmer has some Pernell Whitaker and Floyd Mayweather in him, we agreed. I asked Kelly if the rumor was true and President elect Trump had asked Kelly to work off some of that fast food paunch. Kelly said no, Trump didn’t have the mindset to be able to handle the Kelly way. We took a stab at guessing Trump’s weight. “Early 2s,” said Kelly. “At least Obama played ball,” he said, and then theorized that maybe Trump burns off calories via lovemaking, only his description was more colorful. Kelly said they gym is different and all will get used to the change. He is flying to LA to check on a deal and he said he’d update us on that soon.

Heather Hardy trainer Devon Cormac said the new place is clean and as long as his office, which he has with top client Hardy, is big enough to fit his electronic drum set, so he’s good. “Blimp” Parsley gave it the thumbs up. “It’s nice, I like it, it takes a little bit of getting used to, anywhere you are you can see everything, so I like it,” said the tutor with decades of wisdom stored up. “The gym is nice,” Cormac summarized. We all cracked up when I joked I’d hold the water bucket for Hardy’s next fight, in the MMA sphere Jan. 14, and Blimp told me to stay in my lane, he’d be holding the water bucket.

Dominican ex champ Joan Guzman trains at the gym, and we talked about how he’d have fared against Manny Pacquiao.

Guzman has a superb attitude, quick with a grin, and he grinds it out teaching the next gen to throw one twos.

TV producer and ring announcer Mark Fratto checked in, and gave his review. “Gleason’s new location is an incredible place to train whether you’re a pro or someone just looking to get in better shape,” Fratto told me. “When you enter you’re greeted by all of the familiar faces; some of the best trainers anywhere and the usual cast of characters. There are new rings, new bags and equipment and new locker room facilities to be enjoyed by all, but it’s still buzzing like a beehive and it’s definitely not missing the classic, nostalgic Gleason’s feel. In fact, if you squint your eyes you can’t even tell the difference in that regard. I took 200 showers in the former Shawshank locker room and didn’t really mind after a while. I got used to the Alcatraz vibe!”

But onward an upward, especially in regards to hygiene. Since about 65 percent of the gym goers are “white collar” boxers, Silverglade doesn’t want to lose out to those accustomed to pristine washing rooms. Me, I agree with Fratto, and think the spartan setup is part of the ego check that people receive when they come to the gym to learn to box, but instead learn that it is cheaper and more useful than shrink visits to nurture their spirit. I predict the trend of boxing being the hottest workout trend in the nation will continue, not as a flash in the pan, but into the new year, because the word of mouth of participants is so strong. The mental effects combined with the physical boost isn’t found in any other workout. Silverglade has promoted this POV forever; now he can do so and lure in the hesitant with promises of sparkling lavatories.

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About Michael Woods

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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