What happens in a ring between two opponents is one small part of what goes into the sport of boxing. The physical, emotional and mental development that boxing training offers, which have demonstrative benefits to everyday life and wellbeing, creates a value far beyond merely exchanging blows in the ring until one person is left standing. We caught up with Manya Klempner, founder and operator of Rathbone Boxing Club in London England and found out what motivated her to set up a boxing gym in London’s heavyweight quarter.
Manya, who is a former investment banker, explains that she had a baby in 2013 and started training with Greg White to lose the pregnancy weight that she had gained.
“I didn’t seek Greg out for his boxing expertise, but it was serendipity that he was a great boxing coach,” she says, “In no small way, it has really changed my life. Greg was my first coach, and he is now Head Coach at Rathbone Boxing Club. Together we have crafted this vision.”
Rathbone Boxing Club officially opened its doors on the 3rd June 2019, but it was a long time in the making. Manya explains that the idea was born in late 2015 and getting to where they are today was a journey fraught with ups and downs, trials and tribulations, small victories yet even bigger challenges.
“In line with boxing itself, not every step was forward, sometimes for each one forward there were two steps back,” she admits, “But ultimately, we got there. As Ali said, ‘Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up.’’
This rough start did allow for a lot of fine tuning along the way and despite the pain, it was all worth it. Not bad, considering that the main motivation was that Manya just wanted to have a place to train.
Historically, boxing was a working-class sport, and in turn, most real boxing gyms were situated on council estates. They were non-profit organisations, amateur boxing clubs, run by volunteers, and in large part, these ABCs focused on keeping boys and men off the streets. As boxing has moved up the socioeconomic curve, the infrastructure has not kept up. Manya explains that she had the choice of travelling to an ABC or going to a boxercise studio class. ABCs can be intimidating to the uninitiated; they are often on the outskirts of town and inconvenient to those who work/live in Central London. Also, although the culture and training are usually excellent, the amenities are typically poor if existent at all. And, because they are run by volunteers, hours are erratic, customer service is not a priority, modern conveniences like credit card payments and online bookings are a pipe dream. On the flip side, “boxing studios” in Central London aren’t real boxing gyms. They are fitness studios that offer boxercise, a tepid, watered down substitute.
“We saw a gap in the market and decided to hit it hard,” she said.
Manya explains that the allure of boxing is that it is indeed a sport. “That’s what makes it sticky. It’s called the boxing bug – you get hooked. Learning new skills and progressing are rewarding experiences, and if you’re going to box, you want to box at a real boxing gym.”
“Rathbone Boxing Club is definitely a proper boxing gym and we understand our market,” she says. “We offer an authentic training experience, curated by esteemed professional trainer Adam Booth; we also provide the customer experience that the discerning client requires. We have lovely locker rooms, and our toiletries smell divine. We bridge the gap between the old school boxing gym and the boutique fitness customer experience.”
Manya built a career as a banker. Flying in the face of the norms to pursue a dream and idea is always a risk, nonetheless. Considering that the gym has only been open since July 2019, the responses and reviews have been very promising.
“We nailed it,” she says. “We regularly get comments like ‘Where have you been until now? I’ve been waiting for you!’ Also, ‘Thank you for opening. You’ve changed my life.’ Or, ‘I’ve been boxing for months, and I learned more at my first session at Rathbone than I had in all those months prior.’ It’s immensely gratifying.”
Boxing has a history of social impact. Rathbone Boxing Club honours that tradition by hosting the Rathbone ABC Squad, which is a non-profit organisation run by volunteers, with Rachel Bower as our Head Coach of RABC. As long as members are committed to boxing and wish to come, everyone is welcomed. All contestants are split into Juniors (ages five to seventeen) and Seniors (eighteen and above).
“Giving RABC a home enables us to offer a premium service at spit and sawdust rates to those in the community who would be excluded by price,” Manya explains. “Members of the community have been very supportive. For example, we are sponsored by YOYO Wallet, which is based around the corner, and Chris Mawe, a regular patron, has personally donated a generous amount to support the RABC too.”
She goes on to reveal that they are working on bringing boxing into the local schools; there are heaps of physical and mental benefits from which school aged children would benefit. And, they are also partnering with charities to support their work where mental health is just one of their priorities.
Even though the public’s opinion of boxing has improved by leaps and bounds, boxing still suffers from some naysayers. There are some that believe that boxing is violent, and while there are some inherent risks at the very top levels, athletes at the peak of many sports are subject to the same risks. Meanwhile, especially at the recreational level, boxing is not violent. The main mantra is “hit and don’t get hit” – the priority is learning defence. Furthermore, boxing is non-contact until onewishes to progress to sparring, and even sparring, particularly at Rathbone Boxing Club, is very technical and controlled. It’s about practicing your skills and more importantly tactics, head movement, footwork and breathing. Boxing is a science, not brawling.
“We believe the physical and mental benefits one derives from boxing far outweigh the risks,” she says.
From a physical perspective, you will never be fitter. Mentally, boxing empowers, calms and focuses the mind. It is ultimately a form of mindfulness that is active instead of meditative. The community you become a part of is just icing on the cake but developing a “box fam” is undeniably one of Manya’s favourite parts.
Manya believes that we can only improve by challenging ourselves and that we become a product of our environment. Constantly inspired by her team and her “box fam” she finds every day presents the opportunity to be better than she was yesterday.
“Opportunities to better oneself seem more readily available when you’re surrounded by the right people,” she says. In particular, I respect “people who are honest, sincere with integrity and human decency.”
After coming up the curve in 2019, Rathbone Boxing Club have really hit their stride in 2020 and are going to continue to perfect their training and customer experience. As they get busier and busier, they’ll also be growing their team. They may even start scoping out a second location later on this year.
Address: The Gaslight Building, 29 – 35 Rathbone Street, London, W1T 1NJ
Telephone: +44 (0)20 3973 0044
Mobile: +44 (0)7889 708 560