COVID-19 may have forced us inside of our homes, but Boxing Insider Radio is still here to keep you up to date with what’s going on in the boxing world. For this weeks episode, former amateur standout and current SouthBox gym owner Eric Kelly goes into detail on the new reality facing the boxing community and his ambition to open a new boxing gym in the midst of a pandemic. To tune into the show simply subscribe to Boxing Insider Radio on Spotify, iTunes or on Boxinginsider.com.
COVID-19 appeared to us like a thief in the night. Taking all of our belongings and leaving many of us wondering what the hell just happened? The lives of millions across the world have been changed by the deadly disease, but amongst the most affected group have been the gym community, more specially, those who are located in the New York area.
From the very moment the virus made its unwanted presence known in the United States, many of us laughed. Now, nearly four months in and over 100,000 deaths and counting, no one is laughing anymore.
But while COVID-19 hit unassuming New Yorkers with the same ferocity as former Heavyweight champion and current Hall of Famer “Smokin” Joe Frazier once did, former New York City standout amateur boxer and renowned gym owner of SouthBox Eric Kelly saw this coming a mile away. And while they say it’s the punches that you don’t see coming that leave the most deleterious effect, Kelly, while fully braced, still felt the immediate impact of COVID-19.
“I got wind of this stuff months ago when it was brewing in China pretty bad,” said Kelly on Boxing Insider Radio. “I noticed things were starting to change. So I kind of knew beforehand that we were going to close these gyms down.”
While the virus has no issue attacking every and anyone that crosses its deadly path, it seems to have a soft spot for New Yorkers. The city that “never sleeps” is anything but awake at the moment. And now, gym owners such as Kelly fully understand that it won’t be an easy process to awaken a once prosperous city, let alone boxing gyms that are currently in desperate need of help at the moment.
“Reason being is boxing gyms are a hot bed for plagues such as COVID-19. A lot of body fluids being exchanged in the gym. When it officially happened I was so distraught. Like I had a hard time even breaking it to my clients. How do I tell them that we have to close? And after I tell them that we have too close, are they going to comeback?”
Finding a gym in New York City is akin to locating a Mcdonalds or your local corner store. In short, it isn’t hard to find. Yet with the entire clientele of Kelly seemingly up for grabs from local competition, he was given somewhat of a reprieve in the shape of Governor Cuomo.
“When Cuomo came out and said every gym had too close, I immediately said thank you,” said Kelly while laughing. “Not really thank you but thank you, I’m not the only one.”
The smile on Kelly’s didn’t last long as he discussed the struggles that gym owners not only have to deal with today, but also when this virus is long gone.
“It’s gonna be a little bit of a step back. People aren’t going to so gung-ho to jump back into the gym.”
Still, even with the immediate prospects of owning a gym not proving to be worth it in this day and age, Kelly isn’t ready to give up on his life long passion just yet. In fact, he’s doubling down.
The Bronx native has boarded up the walls and locked the doors on his once prominent SouthBox home. He’s traded in the keys to his successful gym in and in turn, received a new pair.
“I’m opening up a new SouthBox. The old gym was just a try out, it was just a test. Our plan was never to stay at the old gym and now we are actually going to take down that entire building. The old SouthBox was just to see if people were going to come and could we get people’s attention.”
The attention and spotlight has always been fixated on Kelly. As an amateur fighter, he cruised to a 104-14 record while ranking number one in the country. And while his future was unbelievably bright, an eye injury left his ambitions unrealistic.
Although his pro dreams were never achieved, the success that he’s had in the gym industry is second to none. With that reasoning in mind, Kelly isn’t worried about the push back he could receive, or the countless “out of business” signs that he notices on gym doors everywhere. He’s spent several years building his name and his brand. And much like his attitude in the ring, he has no problem going toe to toe with COVID-19.
“A couple gyms are going to go out of business. But the new SouthBx is going to succeed. We did all of the groundwork and research. So I’m confident that my brand is going to succeed.”