Gleason’s is much more than a boxing gym for Keisher Mcleod-Wells. It has become a major part of her life. She works there part-time, trains there for her professional boxing tournaments and even got married there.
The gym first opened in 1932 in the Bronx, NY and then made its way into the Dumbo section of Brooklyn in the 1980s. Since the gym opened, it has produced 132 professional world champions including the legendary Jake LaMotta, Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali. Roughly 26 full-length movies have been filmed at the gym, four of which have won Academy awards. Additionally, over 100 documentaries have been shot at the gym. Even New York tour buses stop by the gym to learn of its historical significance.
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The biggest difference from 1932 and today is that the gym never had any businessmen or women among its members. It now includes over 350 businessmen, from Wall Street bankers to doctors and teachers. And it has over 330 female members, and has produced five female world champions and 1 amateur champion.
The 33-year old McLeod-Wells’s journey with the oldest active boxing gym in the United States began in 2002 when she wanted to tone up for some modeling and acting gigs. She didn’t expect her decision would lead her to boxing competitively.
Female boxing is growing. The U.S. Olympic committee is recognizing the sport for the first time for the 2012 games. While she’s no longer eligible to compete in the games because she’s no longer an amateur, McLeod-Wells told theGrio she is happy to see more equitable opportunities for women.
She aspires to become one of America’s greatest boxers after her favorite boxing greats — Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Robinson, Manny Pacquiao, and Floyd Mayweather. Gleason’s owner Bruce Silverglade, a former boxer himself, says McLeod-Wells stands out from many of the other female boxers at Gleason’s because of her speed in the ring, and for her unique nickname “Fire.”
Reported, produced and shot by Rima Abdelkader