New Yorkers seek stress relief and fitness in the boxing ring

On Monday night, we found Champs Boxing Club owner and head coach Ryan O'Leary working out Bryce Davis — ahead of that young man's second professional fight — inside O'Leary's packed gym in New Rochelle.

"We've been busier than we've ever been," O'Leary said.

A former amateur boxer-turned-Wall Street guy who coached fighters at night before leaving the financial sector and opening Champs 12 years ago, O'Leary dug deep into his savings to pay the gym's rent during the pandemic's forced closure of all New York fitness studios.

"We didn't know if we were ever going to open again," he said.

But on this mid-July Monday evening, fighters of every kind crammed into O'Leary's boxing club.

"There's anything from housewives from Scarsdale to kids from the inner city that are professional boxers," O'Leary said. "We have pros in here, amateurs in here, then a bunch of people who just want to do it for the workout."

Jermaine Drummond, a 43-year-old Larchmont garbage man, was one of those people just looking for a workout. He joined the gym four months earlier after a pandemic spent recovering from shoulder surgery and attempting to stay in shape at home and admitted he didn't walk into Champs feeling his best.

"I was intimidated," he said.

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According to the American Psychology Association's annual stress survey, 42% of Americans put on an average of 29 pounds in 2020.

"Everybody came back here overweight," O'Leary said, "admitting they've been watching Netflix and eating."

And — like the new Weight Watchers, which saw a 16% bump in subscriptions from the first quarter a year ago, and fitness studios and personal trainers all across the country — O'Leary partially credits his influx of new members to the reopening of offices, and workers wanting to return to their desks in at least the same physical fitness in which they left them 17ish months ago.

"We're right by the train station," O'Leary said, "so we're getting all the commuters passing by."

Drummond does not work in an office and didn't get to work from home during the peak of the pandemic but said, recently, he had enjoyed his coworkers' reaction to his improved physique.

"It boosts my ego," he said. "Makes me feel good."

Champs Boxing Club | 7 S. Division St., New Rochelle, N.Y. 10801 | 917-373-9220 |