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A New York Story: Gleason's Gym

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Bruce Silverglade simply describes the business he owns as a "fight gym." Nothing more, nothing less. And after opening the big door and hulking up to the second floor of 77 Front Street in DUMBO, anyone who enters can plainly see that, yes, this is a boxing gym. But describing it as just a fight gym or a boxing gym is a bit like calling Yankee Stadium just another ballpark. That definition, fight gym, doesn't do the space justice so it's better just to call the place by its proper name: Gleason's.

Gleason's is literally world-famous throughout the universe of boxing. It has been the backdrop of a myriad of films, TV shows, and photo shoots. The gym has all the central casting elements: old metal lockers line the walls and the three rings are usually filled with sparring partners. Heavy bags dangle from the ceiling and the place has a sweat and blood smell and feel that cannot be faked.

But among 200-pound men skipping rope and beautiful women engaged in combat, you might also notice the pictures on the wall: Jake LaMotta, Mike Tyson, Roberto Duran. Boxing royalty, champions all, men who once called Gleason's home back when New York was at the center of the boxing galaxy.

Gleason's was once a mecca for pugilists. Before moving to Brooklyn, it stood in the Bronx and then in Manhattan on West 30th, near Madison Square Garden, back when 'The Garden' was the premiere locale for a big championship bout. But as time wore on and the allure of Las Vegas became greater, there was a decline. New York City was no longer the capital of boxing and with that, Gleason's no longer the mecca.

But if you wander through Bruce Silverglade's gym, making sure to avoid the bantamweight on the speed bag and the two men shadow boxing in front of the mirrors, and head straight toward the offices in the back you'll surely notice the big yellow sign. Nailed to the wall among dozens of pictures of current and past champions is an admonition from the poet Virgil: "Now whoever has courage, and a strong and collected spirit in his breast, let him come forth, lace up his gloves, and put up his hands."

That defines Gleason's, a fight gym.