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Gleason’s Gym in Dumbo still packs a punch

Gleason’s Gym first came to Brooklyn at 77 Front St. in Dumbo in 1987 and in 2016 moved to its current Water Street outpost.
Brooklyn Paper
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Call it the sweet old science!

Gleason’s Gym is the oldest active boxing gym in the nation and some of the world’s top punchers and celebrities have come through its doors ever since it opened.

Bantamweight Peter Robert Gagliardi opened his sweatshop in the Bronx and assumed the name Bobby Gleason in 1937 to appeal to New York’s then predominantly Irish fight crowd, but it wasn’t until boxing’s heyday in the mid-20th century that the gym really took off.

Some of the sport’s biggest starts threw punches at Gleason’s, including Muhammad Ali, Jake LaMotta, and Mike Tyson, as well as actors Robert De Niro and Wesley Snipes, who sought to train like the pros ahead of their silver screen rumbles.

Gleason moved his world-famous gym to the distant Isle of Manhattan in 1974, before selling it to businessman and long-time boxing enthusiast Ira Becker.

Becker teamed up with the club’s current president Bruce Silverglade and the two moved their iconic proving ground to Dumbo’s Front Street in 1987, back when the waterfront area’s gritty, industrial milieu lacked the Instagrammable charm that characters the neighborhood today, according to Silverglade.

“It went from a terrible area where you wouldn’t want to ride a bike through to this tremendously wealthy area,” said Silverglade, adding that his boxers had to be tough in the ring — and on their way home! “It was were the mob used to bury all their bodies, the place was inundated with prostitutes and drug addicts.”

With Dumbo’s rise, the gym has welcomed people from all walks of life, from working class youngsters, to Wall Street Execs and even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who made a visit in 2017.

The gym moved to its current location at nearby 130 Water St. in 2016, and the Manhattanite still makes the trip across the river at the crack of dawn to open Gleason’s for patrons at 5 a.m. and he, along with five full-time staff and 92 contract coaches keep the fight going strong.

And the gym is now as much a destination for fitness fanatics as it is for die-hard pugilists, and they all help each other like one big family, according to Silvergrade.

“It’s a community, everyone supports one another and helps another,” he said. “It’s a melting pot, it’s not like going to an Equinox where you do your lifts and leave.”

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Updated 8:22 am, June 21, 2019
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