For the last two years, Raymond Wilburg, 27, has been training hard at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn. At first, it was for fitness. “It’s therapeutic,” he said. “All of the world’s problems, whatever I have outside of the boxing gym, it just falls away.”
Then the workouts grew more intense, and he began sparring more frequently. Soon Mr. Wilburg, who grew up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and works in a Verizon store, started fighting in amateur bouts, late start be damned.
In every corner of Gleason’s, men and women were sweating away. Trainers held mitts to fighters, swatting at them, egging them on. Two men in their 50s went at it in one of the three boxing rings.
Bruce Silverglade, who has owned Gleason’s for 35 years, said his membership is larger than it has ever been — and a majority has no interest in taking a jab to the face. Of the 1,200 people who pay the monthly $95 fee, Mr. Silverglade estimates that 300 are training to fight. The other 900 are there for the workout.
“The fitness end of boxing is more popular than it’s ever been,” the soft-spoken Mr. Silverglade said. “It’s exploded off the ropes.”
To cater to those who are interested in the idea of a boxing-related workout, two gyms opened in Manhattan in May: Overthrow New York and Shadowbox NYC.
Overthrow New York is the brainchild of its 30-year-old founder, Joey Goodwin. “I want to find the middle ground between Barry’s Bootcamp and SoulCycle and CBGB,” Mr. Goodwin said. “Somewhere in between.”
Daniel Glazer, the 31-year-old founder of Shadowbox NYC, has a similar vision, which is summed up on its website: “Fitness Boxing only: absolutely no fighting or sparring.”
“Boxing gyms train people to be fighters,” said Mr. Glazer, who left a job as a stock trader to open his workout space. “We just said: Why not turn that on its head? Because 99.9 percent of the population doesn’t ever want to fight, but they would love to, if given the opportunity, hit something. Everyone wants to hit something.”
The apparent increase in fitness-centric boxing in New York dovetails with recent start-ups in Miami (where Mickey Demos Boxing & Fitness opened in March) and Los Angeles (Gloveworx, in May).
In Manhattan there is also a group called Velvet Gloves Gentleman’s Boxing, which bills itself as “New York’s only primarily gay boxing club.” It offers noncontact classes at the Clay Health Club and Spa on West 14th Street.
The sport is showing signs of a revival in the culture at large. An old-fashioned film genre, the boxing picture, seems to be making a comeback with the July release of “Southpaw,” starring a beefed-up Jake Gyllenhaal. Coming in November is a refresh of the Rocky Balboa saga, “Creed,” with Michael B. Jordan (as Adonis Johnson Creed) and Sylvester Stallone (as his trainer, Rocky Balboa).
While die-hard boxing fans argue that the sweet science has long been in decline, the May 2 bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao obliterated pay-per-view records. And the ascendant Premier Boxing Champions organization is bringing boxing back to network TV and basic cable, with NBC, CBS, ESPN and Spike among its partners.
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New York City is picking itself up off the mat, too. In June, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn was the site of two big-ticket fight cards, and on Aug. 1, the arena hosted a fight broadcast on ESPN, featuring the undefeated fighter Danny Garcia, who kept his record unblemished.
Overthrow New York’s location is the Bleecker Street townhouse that once housed Abbie Hoffman’s yippies, and the place got its name from a yippie newspaper printed there. The interior puts one in mind of a deliberately scruffy Brooklyn bar, an impression confirmed by the minifridge stocked with Pabst Blue Ribbon in the basement studio.
On the top floor is a midsize boxing ring for sparring workouts, personal training and small classes. In the red-lit basement studio, an instructor shouted at the participants, mostly male, who were socking away at the eight heavy bags in the room: “Keep those hands up! One, two, hook! One, two, hook!”
The music is loud and angry (M.O.P. for rap, Dead Kennedys for rock). Overthrow New York’s lead trainer is Alicia Napoleon, a pro fighter known as “the Empress,” who has 11 amateur titles. Another is Charlie Himmelstein, who is also a fashion model and photographer.
Kyle Van Fleet, a 29-year-old investment banker and former football player at Georgetown University, started there because he was looking to try a workout “for people who are getting sick of riding stationary bikes.”
“Playing football in college, you get hit around a bunch,” he said. “Boxing is an environment where you can do that, and not get in trouble for it. It’s absolutely an adrenaline rush.” With boxing, he added: “You can definitely exert a lot more rage or testosterone. When you’re done at a boxing gym, both the physical and mental exhaustion afterwards is pretty gratifying.”
The clean, spare Shadowbox NYC, in the Flatiron district, has a cafe that serves Intelligentsia coffee, Kilogram tea and cold-pressed kale juice. Here and there on the walls are framed black-and-white photos of Muhammad Ali. This is boxing as lifestyle: nonthreatening and nonviolent.
Like Overthrow New York, Shadowbox NYC has a ring for personal training sessions, but the classes seem to be the main draw. They take place in a dark room filled with 40 hanging bags, led by instructors who wear headsets and run the sessions with SoulCycle-style precision.
The music is clubby and pop-centric (Rihanna, Miley Cyrus), and the crowd is heavily female. A recent weekday class was sprinkled with men, who, Mr. Glazer said, are increasingly in attendance.
One of these guys was Michael James, 41, a personal concierge. Mr. James said he started working out at Shadowbox NYC shortly after it opened, hoping to lose weight, and he has gone there twice a week ever since.
“In 45 minutes, I get a workout that could take easily three hours to do elsewhere,” Mr. James said. “The first 5- or 10-minute warm-up here, by the time that’s done, I’m almost drenched.”
He said he has lost eight pounds since making the commitment, and results like his are drawing a crowd. Shadowbox NYC has signed a deal to open a second location in Dumbo, Brooklyn, practically around the corner from Gleason’s Gym.
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Gleason’s got its start in the Bronx in 1937 and has been in Dumbo since 1984. Name a fighter of any regard and if they have trained in New York, they have likely trained at Gleason’s: Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, the two Sugar Rays (Leonard and Robinson).
Gleason’s is dusty. There is no music. The soundtrack is the whirring of jump-ropes and the whomp, whomp, whomp of fighters laying into heavy bags. There is no Pabst Blue Ribbon, no kale juice. If you need refreshment, hit the snack bar for the beef patty or a bag of Cheez Doodles.
Mr. Silverglade said he is happy to welcome the fitness-centric boxing gyms into the fold. “These gyms, as far as I’m concerned, are a good thing,” he said. “The more people that know about boxing, the more people that come into a boxing gym, the better off we are.”
He reasoned that some of those interested in boxing-as-workout will get more serious about their hobby, and that is when they find Gleason’s.
“I have people come in and say, ‘I want to get in shape, but I don’t want to hit anybody, and I don’t want to get hit.’ And the reason why I laugh at them” — he smiled — “is because boxing is a very, very addictive sport.”