With no reprieve in sight, Gleason’s gym owner Bruce Silverglade joins Boxing Insider radio to discuss his struggles due to COVID-19. It’s been months since his gym doors have opened and he states his case as to why things should change. To tune into the podcast, head over to Spotify, iTunes or BoxingInsider.com to subscribe.
They say in the sport of boxing, it’s the shots that you don’t see that hurt the most, and for gym owners around the world, COVID-19 was a blow that they did not see coming.
COVID-19 came in unannounced and quickly made its presence unwanted. The deadly virus forced school’s to shut down, businesses to board up their door’s, churches suspended their services and most of the world was forced to stay inside until things got better.
Up until recently, that is exactly what has happened in the state of New York. Things have slowly gotten better. Masks have become less and less prevalent outdoors, social distancing has become a moot point and businesses are beginning to open up. The threat of COVID-19 is still alive and well, but the number of cases have reached their low points.
At the moment, New York City is currently under phase two of reopening. Restaurants with outdoor seating can now accept customers, men can get a trim at their local barbers, while women can remove their head ties and go to the salon.
All that is left for the city that never sleeps are two more phases. But while most business owners fully understand when they will be able to open up their doors once again, gym owners such as Gleason’s head man Bruce Silverglade doesn’t have a clue.
“I have no idea where I fit in,” said Silverglade on BoxingInsider radio. “I’ve had people tell me that we are going to open in phase three. But I’ve had others tell me no, you’re in phase four but there is absolutely no direction.”
For 80 plus years Gleason’s boxing gym, located in Brooklyn, New York, has become synonymous with the sport. Entering through those doors meant that you were someone of importance in the boxing world. Muhammad Ali, Roberto Duran, Peter Quillin and countless others from the past and present have added their sweat to the ring the mats associated inside.
Yet for the past four months, the loud thud of fighters hitting the heavy bag has not existed. Neither has the constant trash talk between sparring partners as they land huge shots on one another. The curse words and subsequent screams that are associated with trainers attempting to push their fighters further than they thought possible has been replaced with the quiet footsteps of Silverglade as he walks around his empty gym.
Silverglade wants the noise to return, but the flippant attitude towards his gym by those in charge makes it unlikely. Fighting to get his gym open has become a losing battle. So instead, Silverglade is looking for a reclassification.
“I was categorized as a gym by the government,” said Silverglade. “So all gyms had to close, but it’s a wide brush that they use. My gym is in the same category as a Yoga studio or a New York sports club. But I feel that there should be a distinction in there. Particularly since the governor in June has mandated professional athletes that are in leagues like basketball and baseball can begin training again in their training facilities. I am trying to get the government to realize that there is a distinction here. Not all gyms are the same. I should probably be classified as a training facility as opposed to a gym.”
The sports world has in fact opened up. Professional baseball is slated to kick off their season next month, while basketball is aiming to finish theirs in the same time frame. Hockey has already given the green light to its fans that the season will continue, football watchers on the other hand, are optimistic that theirs will go through without many issues. Professional boxers however, are given the short end of the stick.
For nearly one month, boxers have stepped inside of the ring in empty arenas at the MGM Grand Conference Center, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Fighters such as WBO Featherweight titlist Shakur Stevenson and Bantamweight contender Jason Moloney looked as sharp as ever. Other fighters however, have struggled.
Jr Welterweight contender Mikkel LesPierre is amongst the latter. The Brooklyn born native has found himself gym less with Gleason’s out of commission. He is currently preparing for his headlining contest against former two division champion Jose Pedraza on July 2nd, in a unique way. Public parks, his living room and any open space he can find has been his de facto gym. His outside of the box preparation is something that Silverglade understands, but he also recognizes the dangers it presents.
“He’s in a really tough fight and he hasn’t been able to train one day,” explained Silverglade. “He’s been training and working out in a park where he lives but it’s a dangerous situation. Boxing isn’t like playing tennis or football or basketball. I mean don’t get me wrong, there is some contact in there but in boxing you actually are taking your life in your own hands. Injury or death is always possible.”
The dangers of boxing have always been confined to the ring. But with gym’s considered a high risk environment to contract COVID-19, the doors have remained shut. But the sport has always been about making adjustments. So whether he has to box on the outside or make it a brawl on the inside, Silverglade has a plan to ensure the safety of his staff and fighters.
“I have masks and gloves that are going to be mandatory, unless you are sparring. Gallons of hand sanitizer and wipes will be available. I will also have my employees wiping things down and sanitizing. We will have a private cleaning company come in and completely sanitize the place before we open.”
For now though, the doors remain shut, the gloves unbloodied and the heavy bags untouched. Nevertheless, Silverglade remains patient in his empty, noiseless gym. The quietness only ends when his phone rings, from clients who have questions he can’t answer.
“My phone rings all day with people asking me when are we going to open? I hope soon.”