“Killer Klein,” or “Gary,” as he is more so known in his circle, attended his third Gleason’s Fantasy Camp, which ran from August 6-9. I asked Killer to share his takeaways from the session, and also queried Gleason’s show runner Bruce Silverglade on how the camp went this year, and what his plans are for next year, which will mark the 20th year the camp has been providing no end of fun and nourishment, physical and spiritual.
“The camp was great,” Klein told me. (Feel free to click here and read what Klein had to say in the lead-up to the camp kickoff.) “Each one seems to get better – lots of activities but not overdone, l left on Sunday without too much soreness or fatigue. Somehow, to my surprise, it all seems to work smoothly with beginners and advanced boxers and us in-betweeners all working out together. My group of 8 adults ranged 40 years in age and 40 knockouts in skill level, but the training by Devon Cormack and the activities were beneficial to all.”
Here’s a solid tidbit which will be tucked away by a few people considering whether to attend next season, I think. “The food seemed better than before – good salad bar, desserts, beverages and about 8 hot items to choose from, my favorite being the broiled shrimp,” the 66 year old citizen pugilist continued. “Several of us developed a fondness for tofu eggs in the morning – surprisingly better tasting than standard scrambled eggs. It felt like a real vacation, especially when I walked the grounds and rested in the large indoor whirlpool for downtime and attended the evening get-togethers.”
So, it sounds like Kleins’ expectations were met, or exceeded, even?
“I came to the camp hoping I could gain some tricks of the trade and receive evaluations from fresh eyes to supplement what my trainer in Philly and some other younger boxers tell me,” he told NY Fights. “Also, I haven’t spent much time since the pandemic inside a ring and wanted to gauge whether I progressed or regressed.”
“I found out that I’m still frustratingly inconsistent, moving well and showing good technique in some instances and throwing that all out the window and reverting to my bad habits in others,” he said. “This makes me more and more impressed with the consistency of top-tier boxers, which all of the camp trainers have been in their prime and are now passing along their gifts. I want to be a winner and fantasize I’m like them, but in the back of my mind I also hear swirling in my head a lot of “boos” from tough Philly sport fans, especially when I watch film of myself throwing a soft, rubbery punch or leaving myself wide open for a jab, straight, hook or uppercut. My inconsistency was reflected in this camp, where I moved and punched fairly well at certain times and made cardinal boxing mistakes at others. By reflecting on my poor habits, I try to take Nelson Mandela’s quote to heart: “I don’t lose. I either win or learn.”
This aligns with the POV of Silverglade, the boxing lifer who is beloved in the NYC community and far beyond, for his consistently stellar leadership in running the gym for going on near 40 years. “The Fantasy Camp was a huge success,” Bruce told me.
“I say that every year, I mean it every year, it’s true every year. It was smaller this year, because of the pandemic. Mainly, because my visitors from out of the country, from Europe, Australia, and South America, were unable to get into the country. I had about a third of the usual number of kids from my Give A Kid A Dream program, the ten that we had were ages 7 to 15. It was a smaller group, easier to handle. It was a fun weekend, much more intimate than in the past.”
Here’s a cool anecdote. Bruce, after sharing the fact that of 13 adults participating, seven different states were represented, told me about a dad who signed up his son to attend the camp. The boy is 7 years old. “He was one of the most polite kids I’ve ever met, talented for a 7 year old, he was really a delight,” the gym boss said. “Also, normally I bring about 35 kids from the Give A Kid A Dream program, but because of Covid, we had ten. The kids, because they were younger, were really a delight. We had a real nice group, also polite, no mischief, they worked and trained real hard. It was a nice, cohesive group this year, so it was just a pleasure! We had people from Canada, too, so it was still an international camp! Everyone has said that they will come next year.”
Klein gave more specifics on the highlights of this visit, which saw him heading to Honors Haven in Ellenville, NY for the immersive experience.
“This camp met my expectations by enabling me to learn more how to put the “sweet science” into practice in a safe and fun atmosphere, which included reinforcement of fundamentals and controlled combat in the ring,” he said. “A new highlight, in addition to receiving good critical advice and encouragement from trainers: Thierry the photographer, who is a good friend of ours during the camps, gave me valuable boxing advice and “sports psychology” support as we socialized during evening hours and when he had a chance to watch me box. Socially, I’ll always get a chuckle remembering Thierry’s response to my recipe for pancakes when I told him I add jellybeans to the mix: “You would get the guillotine for that in France!” My recipe was suggested in response to his frequent meal of a chocolate bar sandwich, which should be outlawed by the Department of Health! I also cherished some lighthearted and serious boxing discussions at our dining room tables with trainers such as Terry, and a fellow older participant, Howard, right before we left, as well as mixing with the usual camp gang including Jackie, Hector, Juan, Iran, Bruce, and of course, that bundle of boxing energy, Sonya. I forget a few participant’s names, but just pleasant interactions with them and some of the younger campers made it feel even more like one big extended family get together in the Catskills!”
OK, that’s it, it’s cemented. I just texted Bruce, when I read that…I’m attending next year, and will see if I can corral the wife and the kids, too. It sound marvelous, and yes, I’m biased, Bruce is my friend…but every person I talk to who has gone raves like Klein does.
I have to go in 2022.
More Klein insights: “Despite the short timeframe, I got to know some very distinct personalities, running the gamut from very extroverted to more introverted. One of the more extroverted attendees, also on the older side, played the Rockstar role at the Saturday night party, accompanying the smooth Jamaican voice of Devon singing “Under the Boardwalk” and soothing Bob Marley tunes. Using a beer bottle as mic and wearing dark shades he was fulfilling another fantasy and doing it well! Devon sang very smoothly, just like he boxes, and reminded me to not take this sport so seriously – just take it easy and relax, and it will come more naturally as we go through our boxing journeys together. Next year I hope to come back a killing machine – watch out, Juan LaPorte!”
NOTE: I was not able to pry out of Bruce who he is looking to secure as Celebrity Guest Super Trainer, to mark the occasion, the 20th Gleason’s Fantasy Camp. “I have a couple in mind, I haven’t reached out to them yet. I’m not giving you names,” Silverglade said, “and I don’t want to say anything until I get it solidified!”
My Take: It’s already solidified. Bruce has this all down. Gleason’s is the most famous boxing gym in the world, and that’s to his credit. His stewardship is steady, and fueled by his love for the mission. Yep, again, I’m biased..but I challenge anyone to take issue with my declarations. Bruce and Gleason’s rock, just like Klein said, and I reiterated.
Now, I must post this story, I have to go hunt down a jump rope, to start training for the 20th Gleason’s Fantasy Camp.