The “famed and fabled” Gleason's Gym, I like to call it.
The doors opened in 1937, in da Bronx, and generations of fighters, pro and amateur and searchers looking for a therapeutic destination less cushy than a counselors' couch have left their droplets of sweat in the buildings when it was owned by Peter Robert Gagliardi aka Bobby Gleason and then Ira Becker and as of now, Bruce Silverglade.
The Bronx claimed Gleason's as an attraction until 1974, and then in 1984, after ten years in Manhattan, real estate moving and shaking sent the famed and fabled to the borough of Brooklyn. The Roberto Durans and the Gerry Cooneys and the Judahs and Hollywood folk trekked in and out, and slammed bags next to Regular Joes and Janes who came here to find solace, release tension, engage in pugilistic therapy.
(Out of towners like Shawn Porter come here for the atmosphere and the work.)
Come August 1st or so, the famed and fabled will make another move. Brooklyn can still claim this landmark link to eras that in hindsight seemed simpler but of course always manufactured anxieties and economic uncertainties which funneled people to heavy bag therapy, to boxing as a way out and way up.
Gleason's will move a block closer to the Manhattan Bridge, staying on Front St. in DUMBO, according to Silverglade, who partnered with Becker until the latters' passing in 1994.
“We will be on the first floor,” Silverglade told me as the rat a tat of bags and pads and people being hit wafted into his office. “It will be the same setup, close to the same size.”
An occupant in the new building is renovating the eighth floor and will move up there, by July 1. The boxing gear moves into that space and by mid August or maybe early Sept, Silverglade will tell the 84 trainers who make a living there and the 1,200 gym goers to “stop training here, and start training there.”
One change you will see and smell. The bathroom/shower facilities will be gleaming. That's a positive, even if you are the sort who equates a certain dinginess and odor with authenticity. “Today, 85 percent of the clientele is businessmen and women who train here. This is a wealthy area and those people expect a certain setup. So the new bathrooms and showers will benefit the gym and keep people coming who otherwise might look and say, ‘This isn't for me.' We will retain more customers,” Silverglade said.
Trainer Eric Kelly will miss the old digs and smells. “I will miss the old space because it's where I first accomplished my big feat as a boxer and learned that I can do it! I grew up in these walls. Granted, the new spot is directly across the street but it's will not be Gleason's. It's smaller and it won't smell!”
Ok, so Kelly is old school, understands that new age entitlement has made some softer, that Spartan accommodations actually aid in character development. Point taken.
But WBC super bantamweight international champion Heather Hardy sees that side and also that times and people and tastes change.
“The space can change,” said Hardy (seen above, she fights June 25 at Barclays), a DUMBO resident, “but the reason why people come to the gym doesn't. And what they find here, and learn about themeselves, the address doesn't matter.”