Old school boxing at Grand Ave. Boxing Gym

Walking up Russell Street in Northeast Portland you can hear it; the sound of the speed bag being hit faster than you can see it, the round bell sounding the start of the next round and gloves pounding, working with intensity. You open the door and your eyes confirm what your ears already told you: you’re at Grand Avenue Boxing Gym.

The gym originally opened in 1949 on Grand Avenue in Southeast Portland. Its new home for the past year and a half has been in Nelson’s Nautilus in Northeast Portland. The gym is in a new location, but still carrying on the traditions of the old Grand.

“Although the old school appeal of the original Grand is gone, the traditions are still there,”165-pound amateur Adrian Villalobos said.

Owner and trainer Fred Ryan took over Grand Avenue boxing in the late 1980s and has been the promoter/trainer ever since. Since the Grand’s opening it has seen its share of champions as well as celebrities. According to Ryan, through the 1950s and ’60s the Grand produced a number of champions. Actor Cuba Gooding, Jr. also worked out at the Grand Avenue gym while filming “Men of Honor” in Portland.

The gym is now home to 12 pro fighters, women’s boxing and a wide range of amateur fighters. The youngest of the amateur boxers is 12-year old Carlos, who is 1-0 at 119 pounds.

“Carlos fought a kid who had more experience than him and came out the victor,” Ryan explained.

The professional boxers range in weight from the 126-pound featherweight division to super-heavyweight.

The Grand Avenue Boxing Gym, since being reopened, has continually sponsored Oregon’s annual Golden Gloves Competition. The Golden Gloves tournament is usually held in March for amateur fighters 16 to 34 years old. This year, Gloves will be on March 1-2 at the Multnomah Greyhound Park. The Golden Gloves will send the best from Oregon to compete in the regional tournament in Las Vegas to fight other states in the region for advancement to nationals. The national champions will then get opportunities to be part of the USA team for the Olympics.

The younger amateur boxers have a Silver Gloves tournament later this month. The Sliver Gloves tournament is for amateur boxers ages 15 and under. Some of the Grand’s boxers will be traveling to Tacoma in early February for Washington’s annual Golden Gloves tournament.

Depending on conditioning and determination, the average time for a boxer to train for his or her first fight is around eight weeks, Ryan said.

“It takes a high level of dedication to compete,” Ryan said.

Ryan is proud of Grand Avenue Boxing and continues its traditions of helping its boxers enjoy a healthy lifestyle. That is especially important with many of the Grand’s boxers being so young.

“Amateur boxing does a lot for kids,” Ryan said. “It is a definite drug and gang diversion.”

The monthly dues for the Grand Avenue Boxing Gym are $30 and the boxers can join the USA amateur boxing for an additional annual fee of $32. For more information on the Grand or the Golden Gloves tournament call 503-235-9559.