You're a tad late for this year's Golden Gloves (finals took place in April at St. Andrews Gym), but get started now, and you could go between the ropes next year. The nationwide tournament began here in 1923, and Chicago retains its prestige as the birthplace of amateur boxing.
Ready to unleash your inner warrior? Whatever your level of expertise, the city has a club for you.
Windy City Gym
Those who crave tradition can't do better than these hallowed halls. Muhammad Ali trained here, and head trainer Sam Colonna claims many of the city's current top fighters, including Tomas Adamek, Oscar Bravo and bad-boy Andrew Golota.
Colonna's developed scores of amateur boxers as well; if you tell people you're at Windy City, they'll know you're serious.
You'll start with footwork, jump rope, and exercises to help you throw and take a punch. "The next day, if you're still alive, we wrap your hands, and you start hitting the bag," says trainer William "Chupi" Rodriguez. "[Later] we pair you up with an experienced boxer for light sparring and see how you do."
So, yes, you might spar with a world-ranked boxer. But they'll take it easy on you.
Cost: $65 for the first month, $35 each additional month.
So you want a physique like "Sugar" Shane Mosley's or Hilary Swank's? This sparkling-clean gym is the place to get it.
Tina Park joined promoter Dominic Pesoli and undefeated, former world-ranked flyweight Mike Garcia to train pros here, including "The Next Great Champ" runner-up David Pareja and ex-Chicago Bull Kendall Gill. They also offer white-collar pugilists an hour-long "Hardcore Boxing Training Camp," which commitment-phobes can try for a one-time $15 fee.
"It's boxing training and a boxer's workout," says Park. "And it prepares you for an amateur career." And there's no haters; the clean-cut athletes climbing into the ring treat everyone with respect, even if they're fighting on TV next week and you're not.
Cost: $150 for six classes, with one free class with each renewal (up to 10 for $150); membership not required.
Hamlin Park Boxing Club
Long-time coach Bill Heglin has produced more than his share of winners. Fres Oquendo, Anwar Oshana, Frankie Tafoya and David Estrada all got their starts here, as did Dr. Rebecca Carl, a local pediatrician who's a reigning Golden Gloves champ.
"We've seen many more beginning adult boxers," Heglin says. "And our focus is on both fitness and competition, so they fit in well." Here, you'll start with calisthenics, jump rope, footwork, stance and hand-position training, shadowboxing, heavy bags, some ab exercises and--voila--you've got the fundamentals.
Cost: $20 for three months.
Evanston Boxing Club
Dave Englund might yell at you, but you're still part of the family. A lifelong martial arts and fitness practitioner, Englund, who founded this club in 1999 as part of Ult Fit Gym, believes tough love is crucial in motivating slackers to become contenders.
A one-hour class here, free with a gym membership, begins with shadowboxing and calisthenics led by Englund. ("You gotta build up the twisting muscles in your waist if you want any power!" he shouts.) Next, you'll hit punching bags, and/or practice offensive and defensive moves with a partner. Finally, you'll spar in preparation for the Gloves.
The best part? Englund's team comes complete with a Gloves cheering squad that fills an entire section of the stands. Sign up and you'll never box alone.
Cost: $50 a month includes access to all gym facilities.
Originally published April 3, 2006.