East Harlem boxing gym teaches women to claim their space

Brooklyn resident Alex Romero decided to take boxing classes for very personal reasons. 

"I've come to a point in my life that I want to see other things that have within myself that I don't know about or am hesitant about," Romero said. "I wanted to challenge myself."

Romero, 28, chose to challenge herself at Women's World of Boxing in East Harlem, a charming yet formidable gym founded in 2018 by Reese Scott. 

"It was a dream come true," Scott said. "It was a moment that I felt so much relief because opening this place was something that they said I couldn't do."

Known as "Coach Reese," her dream started with a journey of self-discovery that began 18 years ago while battling depression and obesity. She turned to boxing hoping to find a sense of self.

"My connection that I found with boxing was in the footwork. It was in the movement," she said. "It was in what I saw to be a release."

What Scott also found in the male-dominated gyms and boxing classes was an unwelcome reception. 

"A day did not go by where I did not hear, 'You don't belong here, women don't belong in the gyms with us, this is not your place, this is a man's world,'" she said.

Scott said most of her female clientele bring with them feelings of being guarded, especially as crime is on the rise in New York City and women have become unwarranted targets in a string of high-profile crime incidents.

Scott tells her clients to always be aware of their surroundings.

"You want to know how close someone is standing next to you. You want to be aware that they've taken two steps and now all of a sudden, they're right next to you," Scott said. "We need to be aware of these things when we're waiting for the subways and the platforms where we're waiting for the buses. We have to spend more time keeping our eyes up and our chins tucked."

She incorporates these principles into her training classes knowing that the impact will go beyond the ring.

"You're not in anyone's way — they're in your way," Scott said. "So for us as women, there's a lot of reframing that we have to do because we've been taught we don't need that much space."

Women's World of Boxing | 2147 2nd Ave., New York, N.Y. 10029 | womensworldofboxing.com