Fitness

5 Old-School Boxing Gyms in the Philly Area That Will Make You Feel Like Rocky

Boutique boxing is on the rise in Philly, but the discipline's been around in a grittier fashion for much longer.


old-school boxing gyms

Before the boutique boxing studios came to town, there were plenty of old-school boxing gyms that taught the gritty discipline. / Photograph courtesy of TKO Fitness

It’s no secret that Philly is a boxing city. After all, we count “Smokin” Joe Frazier, Bernard Hopkins, and, of course, the (fictional) Rocky Balboa among our ranks. But, with the rise of chain boutiques, our storied tradition is starting to feel… well, bourgeois. So, we stopped by neighborhood gyms across the city to check out the old-school scene. These five spots boast long boxing histories and offer group classes for everyone from Grandma to Olympic trainees. With smaller class sizes, dedicated trainers, and unfussy environments, boxing has never felt more approachable.

Note: Each of these gyms provide equipment, but we recommend investing in your own gloves and wraps, for hygienic reasons if nothing else.

Uppercut Gym
104 North Essex Avenue, Narberth

After climbing the stairs to the second-floor studio, boxers at this suburban gym are greeted by a vast floor with sets of boxing gloves lining the perimeter. Rappe opened Uppercut 12 years ago and recently purchased the downstairs space below the studio as an open, whole-body circuit training gym. In the OG space, owner and trainer Rodney Rappe teaches all ages and all levels of experience. He specializes in training sessions that blend kickboxing in a guided circuit with cardio, mixed martial arts, kettlebell exercises, and TRX, all in one hour of sweaty, heavy-breathing fun. Group sessions are available for men, women, teens, and children along with co-ed classes offered twice a week.

Red Condition Fitness
325 Bainbridge Street, Queen Village

Red Condition is (literally) a hidden gem: Visitors enter through the lobby of neighboring Optimal Gym and head down the stairs to arrive at basement rooms with squash-court-like glass walls. Rather than empty spaces with lined wood floors, however, the classrooms are furnished with soft mats and, fittingly, red free-standing heavy bags. Here, beginners can learn various boxing punches and get a good workout in in the process. Classes begin with HIIT cardio warm-ups and move on to punch combinations, with an attentive instructor there to help you achieve the perfect technique.

TKO Fitness
1615 Kings Highway North, Cherry Hill

TKO Fitness has the look — and smell — of a classic boxing gym. Think: rows and rows of bags of various shapes and sizes and two enclosed rings, plus fans to air out the space. Look twice and you’ll notice the treadmills, elliptical, cable machines, turf and squat racks that make this a full-service spot perfect for the part-time boxer, full-time gym rat. Try the classic boxing class with either Alex or Zeus, the sibling owners who aren’t shy about kicking your ass with a healthy mix of cardio, conditioning, bag combos and sparring. Other options include kickboxing, wrestling, MMA, kids’ boxing and senior classes.

Joltin’ Jabs
4303 Main Street, Manayunk

Joey DeMalavez, owner of Joltin’ Jabs in the heart of Main Street, has trained everyone from Sixer Charles Barkley to 6abc’s Cecily Tyna, although he welcomes all ages and skill levels. (Joltin’ Jabs even offers a “Rock Steady Boxing” class for those with Parkinson’s. Inside the gym, a large chalkboard reads “Don’t lose hope keep believing,” giving boxers a sense of confidence before they endure 50 minutes of interval training. That feeling quickly disappears as class attendees bear crawl, gorilla walk, jump rope, and of course, punch their way through each of the three-minute rotations. Just make sure to arrive on time — DeMalavez locks the front door when class begins.

Lets Be Elite Boxing and Fitness Academy
3122 Willits Road, Torresdale

Although most boxing gyms do incorporate technique, the closest you’ll get to a real fight is punching at vaguely human-shaped bags and dodging imaginary throws. But this is a gym for people who truly want to learn how to box. At this nearly four-year-old training facility, instructors pair students off for shoulder-tapping drills, parrying, and a number of other fight simulations. On Thursdays, students even have the opportunity to don protective gear and practice sparring. Bonus: Owner Octavio Pineda is a trainer who truly cares about whether his students improve. (”Get in the ring,” he directed one student who just completed a particularly exhausting class). Lets Be Elite’s adult boxing class is accessible to all skill levels, although you may feel more comfortable here if you’ve been through a few beginner classes elsewhere.