Fists of fury, abs of steel

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Mastering the sweet science can provide a muscle-ripping workout or basic self-defense techniques — or change your life completely.

At Gleason’s Gym, the DUMBO training ground for champions such as Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali as well as generations of undercard scrappers, two women boxers will host an all-female clinic later this month, but the goal is not simply to whip beginners into shape.

The goal is transformation.

“Women come here to lose weight with me or learn how to fight, but they leave here with a different outlook on life,” said Melissa “Hurricane” Hernandez, 31, a trainer at the storied and sweaty no-nonsense Front Street gym. “When they get on the train late at night, they’re comfortable. They don’t have to be afraid of anything.”

The three-day course will introduce women to basic uppercuts and jabs, feature guest speakers, and conclude with a Saturday-night sanctioned amateur show, scheduled to appear live on

No gym competes with Gleason’s as a training ground for champions, but few have a reputation on the distaff side that includes supporting roles in the recent films “Million Dollar Baby” and “Girlfight.” As a result, the old-school clubhouse works with 300 women, though only 35 are amateur or professional contenders.

“The advantages of boxing are for everyone, whether you’re a competitor or not,” said Bruce Silverglade, owner of Gleason’s Gym. “It’s not strictly a male field any longer. If you come into a clinic like this, you’re going to see 40 or 50 other women, and you’ll see you’re not alone.”

Hernandez, a tattooed fighter with cherry-red hair and a trucker’s mouth, is the prime example of what boxing can do for a woman. The Gerritsen Beach resident started boxing at 22 after deciding she was “a fat disgusting pig.” But what started as ringside weight loss eventually grew into a bent for the brawl.

Now she’s not only in iron-ab shape, but she’s a four-time world champion boxer.

Fellow trainer Alicia “Slick” Ashley, 43, is also a world champion who teaches women at Gleason’s. Her job is to get women to see their punches from start to finish and to not waste any blows.

“It’s all a mental game,” said the Kensington resident. “And that mental game applies to any aspect of your life. You have that resolve that even when it goes bad, it won’t stay bad. One little punch will change the game.”

Many trainees come in with a fear of getting hit, but within weeks are hungry to throw a right hook.

Madeline Kavanagh, 45, a wine consultant in Brooklyn Heights, came to Gleason’s a year ago after realizing that her weight-training regimen lacked a challenge. “I always knew Gleason’s was around, but I was too afraid to walk in because I thought it was just full of men,” she said.

It ended up being quite the opposite. Now she trains four times a week with Ashley, and whacking training mitts in the ring is her favorite part. “I’m too old to compete now,” she said. “I wish I’d found this sport a long time ago.”

Women’s boxing clinic at Gleason’s Gym [77 Front St. between Main and Washington streets in DUMBO, (718) 797-2872], April 28–30. Cost is $299 (equipment included).

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Reader Feedback

bigyello from the burg says:
boxing is a great work out, i'll def tell my friends about this place! it sounds perfect for them
April 1, 2011, 10:49 am
fightinchance from greenpoint says:
i like it when boxing gets some positive coverage. sweet!
April 1, 2011, 11:52 am
Tyler from Wisconsin says:
It's great to see women utilizing this sport to feel better about their bodies and empowered. Good article.
April 1, 2011, 12:07 pm

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