Jab, hook and punch — before you pound some pasta

Jab, hook and punch — before you pound some pasta
Boxing coaches work with clients at Gloveworx's new location at the Century Mall. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

When news that the once-scrappy Santa Monica gym Gloveworx was expanding to Century City crossed my radar, I almost dismissed it as yet another new boxing gym. Then, I discovered the Century City Gloveworx is located across from Eataly, a seemingly Colosseum-sized destination for Italian food. The Turino-import includes cheese rounds bigger than dumbbells, a sustainably sourced butcher counter with stacks of ruby-hued meat (for all of us upping our protein intake) and a selection of pizza, pasta and gelato so vast it will make you sweat.

“They’re good neighbors to have,” Gloveworx founder and former amateur boxer Leyon Azubuike said about the carb motivation nearby.


Azubuike learned boxing at an early age from his West African father, but it wasn’t until after a college football injury that he returned — and excelled — at the sport. Azubuike had dreams of representing the U.S. boxing team at the Olympics, but that didn’t work out. He began teaching boxing to non-athletes in Los Angeles. His coaching took off.

Gloveworx founder Leyon Azubuike at his gym's new location.
Gloveworx founder Leyon Azubuike at his gym's new location. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Gloveworx brand, formerly Azubuike’s Boxing Academy, launched in Santa Monica in 2015. Like Azubuike, many of the coaches played college sports..

“Most of us were all captains of our respective sports, and we know how to get that little extra bit of greatness out of you,” Azubuike said.


The studio’s wide windows face mall-goers and pasta-lovers en route to Eataly, but the caring — and relentless — coaches quickly make you forget where you are and what you want for dinner.

I attended two beginning sessions, dubbed “GWX 101 Session,” with the good-humored Karl Buchanan, a former defensive tackle, whose personal mantra is “If it ain’t hurtin’ it ain’t workin,” and Cesar Rocha, who trained UCLA’s boxing team.

Both coaches had such patience and attention to proper technique that I’m convinced they could teach boxing basics to my family’s pet Chihuahua.

In intimate groups of five or fewer, (one-on-one sessions are available) they instructed the basics of throwing a punch, jab and hook with a focus on footwork and movement as we pounded boxing bags and hardly stopped moving. Rocha was attentive to form while Buchanan caught each throw in a mitt with the ease and rhythm of a pizza dough twirler.


Both coaches left me feeling half-dead and hungry. At the conclusion of the session are core exercises such as planks and a final cardio push on Gloveworx’s deceptively difficult Versa Climbers — or what I call the pasta-killer.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa-looking vertical climbers require pushing and pulling your upper and lower body to stay in place. “That machine right there will burn up any bit of calories that you ingest, I promise you that,” Azubuike said with a booming laugh.


At the end of class, we stretched in the 3,200-foot square space with a red-and-black Rocky-worthy boxing ring. Gloveworx also has filtered water on tap, lockers and sleek showers. Before I left the gym, I could not help but mention my Eataly fixation to Coach Buchanan, who recognized me immediately from our first session and stopped me for a high-five.

“They’ve added a whole new floor since you’ve been here,” Buchanan said.


He might as well said, buon appetito. We all know where I headed next.

Where: 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Century City

Cost: $20 for an intro session for newcomers, $40 for regulars. Gloves and wraps are available for purchase. Complimentary hand towels.