There is a crowd gathering outside the door of 9 Bleecker Street, the gritty downtown headquarters of Overthrow Boxing.
Passersby slow their pace and turn their heads towards the pulsating hip-hop that blares out Overthrow’s doors and onto the sidewalk. Through its ground floor windows, and past an aggressive neon red sign, a few dozen young women chat excitedly as they wrap their hands before squeezing into boxing gloves.
Further back another class is still in session, with the participants jabbing ferociously at shared punching bags as an instructor screams down from a ring set alongside an exposed brick wall.
On any given night, a peek through these same steamed-up windows could result in a story-worthy sighting of Nina Agdal, Usher, Martha Hunt, Jennifer Lopez, the Fat Jewish or Will Smith.
This is exactly what Overthrow founder Joey Goodwin had in mind when he started the gym two years ago. “I wanted to create an atmosphere that drew you in,” he says. “Everyone on the outside is trying to get a better look, wishing they were a part of the action.”
The phenomenon was one that Goodwin observed while on the iconic West 4th basketball courts, where he started balling at the age of 10.
There he was introduced to the sport of boxing through a fellow player.
“I think he saw me run my mouth and get beaten up too many times,” remembers Goodwin, leaning back in his office on the gym’s second floor. “He took me to East River Park and taught me a few moves. I was hooked immediately.”
Enrolling in a local boxing gym, the street-wise Goodwin immediately spotted an opportunity for growth. “The room was filled CEOs, models, editors and entrepreneurs,” he says. “I began to see the potential that could come with creating a real boxing brand, done in the style of SoulCycle or Barry’s Bootcamp.
Since then, others have started to do the same thing as us, with more polish.” (No names are mentioned, but one could imagine the reference applying to the spotless classrooms of Rumble or Shadowbox.)
Overthrow’s digs are the opposite of polished. Goodwin stumbled onto the then (and still sort of) decrepit building while riding his bike to play ball. The townhouse had a “For Lease” sign in the window and, upon entering, he learned that the townhouse was once the base of operations for Abbie Hoffman’s yippies, a counterculture group that became famous for aggressive social activism.
The name Overthrow is actually derived from a yippie newspaper, which was scattered all over the floor when he first stepped in.
The gym’s location and condition seems fitting in a lot of ways. The ghost of CBGB’s still looms in the neighborhood, and Overthrow’s interior resembles that of a defunct rock club with heavy bags hanging in it.
The space revels in its rawness. Stickers plaster the walls. The smell of sweat fills the air. Down the stairs is a red-lit basement studio for smaller classes, complete with exposed pipe, which would have made a perfect location for Brad Pitt to kick the shit out of Edward Norton in Fight Club. Do not expect to find heated hand towels, small-batch face creams or aromatic sprays.
Just across the street lives a colorful mural of iconic front man Joey Ramone laced up in boxing gloves, done by local artists Solus and John “Crash” Matos and commissioned by The Little Italy Street Art Project. There is no question that, if Ramone was still alive and wanted to spar a few rounds, he would feel at home Overthrow.
In fact, the whole point of Overthrow is creating a space where everyone feels welcome, from first-timers to experienced enthusiasts.
Classes are available for the reasonable rate of $34, and they can be booked in person or on the snazzy website. Beyond the everyday programs, there are a few specialty events offered, like a Friday class called Boxing & Booze (which ends with a cold beer) or a Monday donation-based class (where the money goes to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood).
They have come a long way from how they recruited for their first class. “We had the ‘Looking For A Girlfriend’ flyer guy do a ‘Looking For A Fighter’ version,” says Goodwin, laughing. The flyers was nearly identical, except instead of artist Dan Perino’s face, they used one of their trainers, Charlie Himmelstein, who is also a fashion model and photographer.
Scrolling down their roster of trainers may indeed give you the impression you accidentally were redirected to a Wilhelmina booking page, but do not be mistaken, the group has legit credentials.
Ronica Jeffrey was a three-time Golden Gloves winner and International Women’s Boxing Federation World Super Featherweight Champion. Brian Patrick Murphy was a two-time Golden Gloves competitor and trained by World Champion Joey Gamache. Melissa St-vil was a Women’s International Boxing Association Super Featherweight Champion.
The envious celebrity clientele is more a byproduct of good association than the any “targeted influencer marketing,” explains Goodwin. “Sometimes we will have BBQs on the rooftop where there may be world famous models, standing next to Michele Lamy, standing next to a street basketball legend, but in the end they are all just our friends.”
It pays to have friends like these. For example, at the time of this article’s writing, Overthrow’s Instagram location’s “Top Posts” featured shout outs from model Ashley Smith, model Nina Daniele, Chillhouse owner Cyndi Ramirez and model Hailey Clauson (who dates Overthrow trainer Jullien Herrera).
But while famous faces have walked through Overthrow’s doors, the true star is without question lead trainer and former Golden Gloves champion Alicia Napoleon, whose fight moniker is “The Empress.” Napoleon is currently in training for two upcoming matches in June, and leads her classes with what could be considered a friendly iron fist.
“I think people these days are too sensitive,” says Napoleon. “I want to bring a little of that old school toughness back. If you get knocked down, I want to see you get right back up. It is only going to make you better. There is sportsmanship here as well. This is a family. I push my girls. We have a sisterhood. This is a place to clear your mind, and leave the bad behind.”
Much like Napoleon, Goodwin believes there are many lessons to be learned from boxing, and has aspirations to spread them through Overthrow’s clothing line, called Overthrow, which you can usually find him completely decked out in.
Having founded the line before venturing into gym ownership, fashion is a passion close to Goodwin’s heart. He draws hopeful comparisons to the way that Supreme was born out of the ’90s skateboarding scene.
“The idea of fighting for something is a metaphor that anyone can related to,” Goodwin attests. “You can be a part of this story even if you never put on a pair of boxing gloves.”
But where’s the fun in that?
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- Words: Charles Thorp
- Images: Atisha Paulson