‘Attitude is everything’ for former pro boxer and owner of London ‘Glove Up’ gym

Modern is not a word often associated with boxing gyms, but as you look around the Glove Up gym in Wandsworth, it’ll be the first one that springs to mind.

With a consistent red and black colour scheme and its distinct logo found on almost every piece of equipment, the gym exudes a sense of professionalism and detail not found in many amateur boxing clubs.

As Martin Holgate, founder and director of the gym, turns down the speaker system with his mobile phone before switching off the digital round timer, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary boxing gym.

While it may seem this way at first glance, the age-old staples are still present – a ring, punching bags, skipping ropes, shelves of boxing gloves.

This blend of old and new school is one of the defining features.

Rather than looking to produce competitive fighters, Glove Up focuses on improving the fitness of its members through boxing training – a relatively new concept.

glove up gym sign

However, the lessons Martin wants people to learn are ones that have been taught for decades in boxing gyms across the country.

“The whole Glove Up concept is something I want people to go out and use in life,” he said.

“It literally means ‘Let me just glove up and get on with it.’ You could be going through difficulty in your life or in your career and this will make you think, ‘You know what? Let me go after it.’”

Martin is a man who speaks from experience, and his experiences are what led him to founding the gym in a bid to pass this concept onto other people.

“Glove Up is about my life, which has had its moments. It’s been difficult from time to time but I’ve always kept on going,” he added.

“I’ve always done boxing as well, which helped me out, so I just connected the two. I just kept on fighting, so I named the gym Glove Up because that’s what I do – I glove up and fight.”

“I named the gym Glove Up because that’s what I do – I glove up and fight.”

After a professional boxing career that saw him win 11 fights and lose three, Martin retired from prize fighting in 2002.

Although he is now at peace with his decision, he took a break from boxing following his retirement.

“I was a bit disillusioned with the boxing scene, but probably more disillusioned with myself because, in my eyes, I should have done a lot better as a fighter,” he added.

“At the time I had a lot of stuff going on, and I couldn’t separate that from boxing.”

After a period of reflection, he finally did what he knew best – he gloved up.

glove up gym ring

“After a while I started training again, not to fight, but just because that’s what I know. I decided to take my life in another direction.

“One thing didn’t work out, so I moved on to the next thing.”

That new direction turned out to be boxing coaching, something Martin has been doing ever since.

After years of teaching boxing in central London, he committed to what he calls an ‘all-or-nothing project’ and opened the Glove Up gym in late September of this year.

Committing a considerable amount of money and 90 hours each week to the gym, Martin’s description of his project is not an exaggerated one.

What he has produced is a gym that utilises the rising popularity of using boxing training as a fitness tool, which also includes a room dedicated to strength and conditioning.

gg in the ring

However Martin is quick to emphasise how his gym is not a hybrid of the two, like the BoxFit classes that loosely use boxing exercises for fitness at the expense of good technique.

“Boxing has opened up, people enjoy boxing training,” he explained.

“What’s not good is when people who don’t know anything about boxing are teaching it.

“What’s not good is when people who don’t know anything about boxing are teaching it.”

“It’s turning the whole thing into some kind of hybrid. If you haven’t boxed, you can’t tell someone how to box.”

With more than 30 years of experience in boxing, which has seen him work with the likes of David Haye and his trainer Adam Booth, Martin is certainly qualified to tell people how to do it.

“What we want to do here is teach people how to box correctly without them necessarily having to fight,” he said.

“I just want anyone who comes here, when they leave, to think ‘Yeah, I actually learnt something there’.”

He emphasised how he wanted to open a gym that anyone, from any lifestyle, could walk into and benefit from.

As you look out of the row of glass doors that front the gym, you can see these different types of people walk by and take an interest in the gym, with some even coming in to ask Martin about classes.

Some have boxed before and would like to try it again, others just want to try something new.

Either way, Martin welcomes them in and talks to them in depth about their goals.

It’s this approach that has seen join-ups to the gym surpass Martin’s projections for the first few weeks and, in another buck to the boxing trend, more women joining than men so far.

Despite the gym still being in these early stages, Martin already has a vision for the future.

“I want to open more gyms and turn Glove Up into a brand,” he explained.

“Our motto – ‘attitude is everything’ – is applicable to everybody. It can mean something to everyone.”

That motto is suitably printed in large letters in the centre of the ring canvas, making it the first thing you would see if your head were to drop in the middle of a round.

While those words are printed in one place, their impact is shown in the growing popularity of the gym – a fitting testament to Martin’s attitude and commitment.

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