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Interview With Hector Roca and Bruce Silverglade of World-Renowned Gleason’s Gym

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Recently, I spoke with Hector Roca and Bruce Silverglade, of the world-renowned Gleason's Gym in New York City, regarding their just released softcover edition of The Gleason's Gym Total Body Boxing Workout For Women: A 4-Week Head-To-Toe Makeover.

Hector Roca: Gleason’s Gym Chief Trainer

KJ: Mr. Roca, I understand that you are a former Olympic cyclist from Panama, but you have also coached 15 world champion boxers and trained Hilary Swank for her role in Million Dollar Baby. How is it you became a boxing trainer?

Hector: I cycled for many years in Puerto Rico. My brother was a boxer and fought for the world title. I’d been trained in Panama, and after coming to the US, was looking for a job. I tried Gleason’s Gym and did well. That was 26 years ago. It’s been my life’s work.

Bruce Silverglade: President and Owner Gleason’s Gym

KJ: Mr. Silverglade, you’ve been involved in boxing for many years, have been an assistant for the 1980 and 1984 US Olympic Teams, and you currently are the president and owner of Gleason’s Gym. How is it you got into boxing?

Bruce: My father was the team manager for the 1980 and 1984 US Olympic teams. Originally, I did not want to follow in my father’s footsteps. I graduated from college and began at Sears & Roebuck, spending 16 years in management. Then I called my father and asked him to get me involved. I became a referee and a judge for the New York Amateur Association and was the national chairman for Jr. Olympics Boxing. I did these as a volunteer. Then, I was offered 50% ownership of Gleason’s Gym. I quit my Sears & Roebuck position, and came into boxing full-time. Today, I am the sole owner.

History of Gleason’s Gym:

KJ: I reviewed your history of Gleason’s. In 1937 the monthly gym fee was $2.00. What is the cost today?

Bruce: $80 a month – not bad compared with other New York City health gyms.

KJ: During the Great Depression, boxing was deemed an Irishman’s sport. Who competes today?

Bruce: Boxing today is dominated by Hispanics. They have replaced American Blacks. Also, the last five to eight years, we’ve been seeing many Eastern Europeans.

KJ: Gleason’s has produced 128 notable champions. How many are women?

Bruce: Gleason’s has three female world champions. In amateur women’s boxing, we dominate the sport, locally – winning the NYC Team Trophy, and internationally.

KJ: Raging Bull, among other films, was shot at Gleason’s.

Bruce: I was here for the training of Robert Deniro. To date, we’ve been involved with the shooting of 29 full-length features, four of which have won Academy Awards.

KJ: I’ve seen boxing on TV with many celebrities, such as Sylvester Stallone, in the audience. Is this an extremely popular sport with Hollywood notables?

Bruce: Boxing is extremely popular with everyone, they just get the notables on camera. The arena is filled with celebrities in the expensive front row seats. But in the back are many who are poor and who can’t afford the price of a ticket. Boxing itself is universally accepted and appreciated.

KJ: Where is women’s boxing as a fitness sport today?

Bruce: About 12 years ago, women’s boxing began. A woman named Hamaguchi sued US Amateur Boxing to allow women to compete. She won the lawsuit, and opened floodgates. Today, more women are both professional and amateur boxers.

Most women in the gym do not box. They come in and want conditioning and to learn the sport. We train everyone to be a fighter, and to be able to compete in a 12-round competition (1 hour length). These women end up in superb physical condition; it’s a terrific 1-hour workout. Boxing is more of a mental workout than a physical workout. It promotes self-control, focus, concentration, and self-discipline.

KJ: Bruce, if I come to Gleason’s Gym, will I get hit in the face?

Bruce: Kelly — only if you enter the ring and spar. You don’t have to do this; the majority of those who come to the gym for fitness don’t want to get hit or hit someone. Later, many who stay in the gym will spar. Boxing is an addictive sport; boxers love the adrenaline rush and physical attributes they get from working out. The logical and last progression is sparring.

Besides this, protective headgear, and cups around abdomen are used. The trainers are also protective of anyone who is not a fighter.

KJ: How many trainers does Gleason’s have?

Bruce: We have 81 full-time trainers.

KJ: How large is your facility?

Bruce: It is 17,000 square feet.

KJ: Do you have women’s locker rooms?

Bruce: Yes. This is our third location — Brooklyn. It has complete facilities for both men and women. Gleason’s Gym is the oldest active boxing gym in the United States.

KJ: How many members do you have?

Bruce: On a monthly basis we have 1200 members, 280 of which are women.

KJ: Is this a growing trend?

Bruce: Yes, the fastest-growing segment is women. Women are easier to train. They are nicer, and usually educated. Women see the sport as a challenge, or as something to conquer. Men want to get out of the ghetto and fight. They have a macho image and bad habits from previous fighting experiences. Women say, “Teach me the sport.” They have no bad habits to break.

KJ: How old is the average female boxing enthusiast?

Bruce: Competitors are in their early 20’s, and fitness boxers begin training in their early 30’s.

KJ: What is the background of the competitors?

Bruce: Most are college grads. Alisha Ashley at Gleason’s is a full-time professional fighter and trainer. Prior to this she was a model and had kickboxing experience.

Maureen Shea, used for a sparring partner with Hilary Swank, is an undefeated professional fighter. At #1 in the world, she also has a good education and is a determined woman.

KJ: For special interests, do you fly out to train at another location, or must an individual come to Gleason’s?

Bruce: We do both. Hilary Swank trained here in New York. Then Hector flew out to California. We choreograph movies wherever we’re needed.

KJ: What does the boxer eat/drink? Why are brown rice and beans the best food for a boxer?

Hector: Beans and rice are good for energy and a lot of weight if you want to gain weight. In controlled amounts it builds muscle. Also, drink water. You can’t drink too much of it.

Bruce: Hilary Swank was in good condition. We were contacted and asked to get her in shape and looking like a boxer. Hilary put muscle on, and was cut to look like a boxer. She looked so good that no body doubles were needed for Million Dollar Baby.

KJ: What most important thought regarding women’s boxing as a fitness, would you impart to the public?

Hector: Learn the sport the right way and don’t try to be a killer.

Bruce: It will give you a very good physique, like that of a runner or a dancer. Very importantly, it offers a different mental outlook—self-respect, self-discipline, focus, and concentration are honed. These skills are usable whether you’re raising kids or in the office.

KJ: How can boxing techniques modeled in your book be best practiced at home?

Bruce: The book is meant for women who cannot come into the gym for whatever reason—finances, home-life, etc..

The Gleason’s Gym Total Body Boxing Workout For Women is a fiour-week body makeover, and is simple and inexpensive. Through the step-by-step routine, diet, and nutrition directives followed in the book, you’ll lose inches.

Kelly—Do you go to a gym?

KJ: Yes, I do Bruce. But I’m more of a cyclist and weight-lifter type.

Bruce: Cycling goes right along with boxing. Hector was a cyclist. Weightlifting adds bulk. Boxers need less bulk in order to be light.

If the reader dedicates herself and follows Hector’s instructions, she’ll tone up, change her physique, and her blab will become muscle. A heavy individual will lose weight with the combination diet and workout.

KJ: How can the boxer’s “style” be achieved at home?

Hector: Everyone has his own style.

Bruce: If your style is satisfactory for boxing, improve on your style. Some punch harder, others move faster, and there are those who punch softer and move more. At home, find your own rhythm, following the 4-week routine.

It is so important to realize that the myths of boxing–a sport of underprivileged people and violence, is not true. It is a sport for everybody to try. From CEOs to kids from the projects, I have trainees from 67 different nationalities, ages 7 to 70. With boxing, you can rejuvenate, improve physically, and have no injuries.

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