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Gleason’s Gym Leading the Charge As Women’s Pro Boxing Ascends



After decades as a bastion of raw masculinity, Gleason’s gym is getting in touch with its feminine side.

Don’t worry, Gleason’s hasn’t lost any of its gritty, primal roots. Yet women are making their mark at Gleason’s like never before.

At this moment, all Gleason’s boxers who hold title belts are women. As well, the designer/architect who crafted their new home at 130 Water Street is a woman. And that person is me, Carolyn DiCarlo.


I got hooked on boxing six years ago. I tried so many fitness regiments: running, biking, climbing/hiking, tons of classes, but never felt so in-shape or focused because of a sport before.

People think of it as a brutal sport, but six years into it, I have a different perspective. Boxing training is one of the very best mind/body training vehicles I have ever found. It’s not surprising that lots of boxers have six-packs as core training is inherent within the very act of boxing, in both defensive and offensive moves. Go even three rounds sparring and you’ll have some of the best endurance training on the planet. Even without getting into the sparring ring, boxing training itself is an incredible mind/body sport.

The women champs at Gleason’s are:
• Heather Hardy (18-0), who holds the WBC International female featherweight title

• Alicia Ashley (23-11-1, age 49), who held the WBC female super bantamweight title.


Keisha “Fire” McLeod Wells (8-3), who holds the NY female flyweight title

• Ronica Jeffrey (15-1), who holds the WBC silver female featherweight title

• Melissa St-Vil (9-2-3), who holds the WBC silver female super featherweight title

• Sonya Lamonakis (10-2-2), who holds the IBO female heavyweight title


The gym is a community, not just a place to work out. When I was asked to design the gym, I kept that in mind, allowing for many trainers and cultures to coexist within one space. Architecture should not just visually and functionally work, but must help convey the spirit of a place. It was important to feel the in-your-face Gleason’s experience upon arrival, so we designed the space with a strong central corridor leading through the center of the gym, before reaching the locker rooms.

Within the walls of Gleason’s, men and women train together on equal footing. Women are totally respected and there’s even a cross-pollination happening between men and women fighters at the gym. Both men and women make suggestions to each other to better their game. Women spar with men. And both learn from each other in terms of their approach to boxing training. Of course, I think women do fight differently, maybe more strategically, definitely more defensively. I see women more able to multi-task in the ring. All that can add to the skill sets to make a better boxer.

It’s too bad that the glass ceiling still exists within the world of boxing. Women’s matches are less often televised than men and of course, they receive smaller purses. When the most successful Olympic boxer in US history, Claressa Shields, won her second gold medal in Rio 2016, it was barely publicized, as compared to if a man did the same.

Gleason’s male/female balance could be the road map for 2017 being a breakthrough year for these six champions and also women’s boxing in the US.

Fight fans will come to appreciate and respect these athletes just as much as they do the men. We’ve seen it happen for women in mixed martial arts. And if what is brewing within Gleason’s is any indication, it seems inevitable then for the sport of boxing.