The club describes itself as a proper boxing gym that combines the spirit of a traditional, spit-and-sawdust club with all the comforts of a boutique experience. Manya has recently opened another gym in Camden, and more are in the works plus a potential international expansion.
It was far from written in the stars that boxing would become a way of life for the Russian-American living in England’s capital.
“I literally had zero interest in boxing, absolutely zero,” Manya Klempner tells. “I knew about Don King he had funny hair, and I knew Mike Tyson had bitten off someone’s ear. So you can imagine my parents were surprised, this is the girl that goes to open a gym. It was completely shocking to them!”
From banking to boxing, Manya went from the busy world of trading to trading punches as she encountered boxing by a twist of fate.
“My background was in banking, I was an investment banker, sales and trading, emerging markets. I left when I had a baby, and after having a baby I had some extra baby weight. So I wanted to work out with a PT to help get rid of some of the fat. And I started working out with someone who happened to be a boxing coach. I didn’t intend for him to be a boxing coach. And it changed my life.”
“There were a number of things that I liked about boxing. I liked the skill development, I was actually learning a sport instead of just exercising. It wasn’t just aimless sit-ups and lunges. It was about technique and getting better and better, and hitting harder!”
“I mean I worked on a trading floor my entire career, I’m not a wallflower. I’m aggressive, competitive. I’m not intimidated by much. But there is still a certain expectation of women in that corporate world, and this coach hold up his pad and said hit me harder, and when I did ‘lovely’ is what he said. It was a feeling of not wear higher heels or smile more or be more feminine, it was ‘hit me harder!’ And I liked it, it was a feeling of empowerment!
“And I quite liked the genuineness of boxing, boxing is a lifestyle. You just don’t do it for an hour a day and walk away, people get sucked into it. There are so many mental and physical benefits of it. I had never experienced something like it before. And I was like, I wanna open a boxing gym.”
The star trainer of Rathbone Boxing Club and Camden Boxing Club is Adam Booth, the Brit who has trained top-flight boxers such as David Haye, Andy Lee, and WBSS bantamweight quarter-finalist Ryan Burnett. Head Coach is Greg White, the PT who introduced Manya to The Sweet Science.
“We teach boxing as a sport,” says Manya Klempner when explaining the ethos of the gyms.
“That doesn’t mean that you have to be a champion at it. If you go to Regent’s Park there are people playing tennis, none of them are going to Wimbledon, trust me! They are just out there playing a sport, having some fun, getting some fitness, they are engaging with their community. You go on the football fields, the same thing, those people are not going to the World Cup. They are just having a good time, hanging out with their friends. People that are riding their bicycles around Regent’s Park are not going to the Tour de France either.
“Why can’t people practice boxing as a sport without being champions? If you wanna compete at amateur or pro level amazing. But why can’t the average person play boxing? Although there is a saying ‘You don’t play boxing’ – but in principle. So that’s what we believe. We encourage everybody if they are trying and they want to learn, we gonna try and teach you.
“We have people coming in and say we are just gonna do it for fitness, and that’s fine, we’ll still teach you properly, your end goal doesn’t have to be to compete. They say they don’t want to spar, you get hit in the face is that what happens?! Give it three months and I’ll guarantee they want to be in the ring. And our sparring sessions are full of women!”
Why do think women’s boxing is a growing trend?
“I think it has become more acceptable. If you go back 20 years it wasn’t an acceptable thing to do. It was perceived as a man’s thing, kind of a low-life thing in many aspects. I don’t think it was socially acceptable, and now that it is more and more women are becoming involved in it and encouraged to do well, to succeed, and to compete. Trailblazers like Katie Taylor and Cecilia Brækhus, a host of women boxers, are paving the way. But it comes from all sides. You have the professionals, the amateurs competing at the Olympics, and then you have recreational women boxers. Even if it’s just a Victoria’s Secret model doing it, at least it makes it okay for everyone else. And that’s a good thing.”
What type of people do you mostly see in your gyms?
“We have people from all different walks of life, different ages, and they would never have crossed paths and they are best friends. We cater for all ages from 5 to 65, men, women, fat people, skinny people, attractive people, ugly people, cool people, not cool people, anyone is welcome. We see a lot of women, more and more. It’s about 40 percent women and 60 percent men.
“But our sweet spot is the 30 to 45 age group. If you are a successful professional in that age group whichever sex, you are probably an overachiever. You are probably pretty educated and competitive as a personality to have risen to the ranks of whatever industry you are in. You probably have quite a bit of stress. you probably have a head full of information and that do-do list that never goes away.
“And you are probably quite cerebral, you like learning things. Boxing is the perfect solution to all of these things. It ticks the box for all these people. The challenge is just overcoming some of the negative connotations or intimidation factors. But once they try it it’s the boxing bug, they never leave.”
You talked about the mental benefits of boxing. What are the mental benefits in your opinion?
“It’s hard to put your finger on it in a way. I think it’s different for everyone. For me, it’s almost this calmness and confidence that I know I can. I can get frustrated and get from zero to one hundred, freak out kind of scenario. Boxing when you have done it enough times gives you that sense of I will make it. I mean three minutes is an eternity, it’s mind-boggling. But you know you will get there. It’s the sense of knowing that, that applies to different parts of my life as well; like opening a gym, opening a second gym, it’s not been easy, there’s been ups and downs. Before it would be the end of the world, but now I know it will be fine. I will figure out a solution.
“There is a lot of women that are in my age group who drive another benefit out of boxing. When you get to a certain age you have a pretty busy life. So, I have a kid, I have a home, I have a job, friends, I have a family, all thee things that are competing interests. I have no time.
“When you are boxing, if someone is throwing a punch at your face, that’s all you are thinking about, and it takes you out of yourself for that moment of time you are doing it. There is a certain catharsis about that. Even when I’m sleeping I’m stressing about something, but when I’m boxing I’m taking a break from my life.”