Battling Bartenders Learn Craft of Boxing At Gleason’s Gym



Battling Bartenders Learn Craft of Boxing At Gleason’s Gym

As far as vocations go, bartenders are not near the top of the list of those living “healthy” lifestyles, paying top-most attention to nutrition and fitness and all-around well-being.

Late nights, the temptation to imbibe, the buzz of the scene..all of it can be draining on a person’s health and wellness if they aren’t careful.

To that end, the Bartender Boxing Organization (“BBO”), sponsored by Tequila CAZADORES, has been put together, and the effort is there to work toward encouraging positive momentum in the personal physical and emotional fitness realm of bartenders and those working in the service industry, and beyond.

“With this program, they're taking bartenders out of their comfort zone with the physical and mental challenge of boxing and immersing them in a 12-week training program at world-class boxing gyms where their fitness, nutrition, mental toughness will be tested, honed and perfected,” reads the copy in the intro to the program. “In Chicago, the participants will be trained at the Oakley Fight Club in the West Loop by top boxing trainers, and in New York, each bartender will go to the famous Gleason's in Dumbo, Brooklyn, and work with renowned trainers Delen Parsley and Leon Taylor.”

NY-area boxing aficionados will know those last two names; they are fixtures at the famed and fabled Gleason’s Gym, and NYF checked in over there to get a better handle on the battling bartenders deal.

“Me and Leon have been training the bartenders for the last three months,” Parsley, very affectionately nicknamed “Blimp” told me before the Nov. 19 showdown between the NY and Chicago ’tenders.

So Blimp, who will win, NY or Chi-town?

“C’mon, you know New York gonna make it happen,” Blimp said. “We here, and we gonna win it! Who’s my best bartender? They’re all good! All my bartenders are good, I don’t pick and choose. This, the fight between Alexis and Kayla, is going to be one of the fights of the night.”

“Alexis Brown from Chi Town, south side,” is how Brown introduced herself. The 28 year old works at “The Drifter,” and was repping “Causing A Stir.”

“I had no boxing experience,” said Brown at Gleason’s, before starting a workout. “I saw the application online, I applied. I had 3 1/2 months of training. I’ve learned a lot about myself through this program, I had to pull things from myself (I didn’t know that I had or could)…mentally, physically, emotionally. We want to promote healthy lifestyles. Bartenders don’t usually live the most healthy life styles.”

She would be fighting Jessica Friedman. Has she seen Friedman, snarled at her, tried to get into her head?

“I love her too….we’ve been on this journey together. But end of the day all that goes out the window in the ring.”

A NY bartender was also on the scene, about to start a workout. Kayla Hasbrook, from Brooklyn, Crown Heights, age 30, weighed in.

“I applied, it was like applying to college, I wrote an essay, had an interview and they asked me how bad I wanted it. I kinda wanted it but I wasn’t prepared to become a runner! Will the fighter in the best condition win? As far as conditioning goes, New York has Chicago in spades!” She’s working at ABC Cocina in Union Square and is starting her own project, Scampi restaurant, on 18th St. between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in Manhattan. She would be fighting Elizabeth Mickiewicz.

Has she met her foe? “I think she’s a nice girl,” Hasbrook said. “We went on a trip to Mexico. I didn’t anticipate fighting her, because she’s a lot bigger. I’ve already got everything I hoped for from this experience. Now, it’s like a dance recital. I’ve learned that hard work pays off, and everything you put in, you will get back.”

Blimp continued to tell me the growth he’s seen in the ‘tenders since they started. The 56 year old Brownsville, Brooklyn resident said, “I’ve been hearing them saying they’re feeling better. Before they started boxing they, they never ran before, now their times are getting better. They’re feeling stronger, they’re having more confidence in themselves, and they’re more outgoing now. They’re appreciating everything me and Leon did for them, and they have more confidence about themselves, with everything, their walk, their swagger, everything. Everything has changed, I’m loving it.”


POST-SCRIPT: The dance recital took place in Manhattan, at Stage 48. The New Yorker Hasbrook had her hand raised, getting the better of Mickiewicz. And Jessica Friedman got the W over Alexis Brown. Truly, though, to end on a corny but truthful note…There were no losers in the ring, everyone who participated ended up gaining immeasurably strength.

Founder/editor Michael Woods got addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the then-impregnable Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist has covered the sport since for ESPN The Magazine,, Bad Left Hook and RING. His journalism career started with NY Newsday in 1999. Michael Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and for Facebook Fightnight Live, since 2017.