Photo credit: Larissa Burgess
It’s just a few short weeks until the grand opening, and a palpable excitement bubbles at The Club in South Boston.
Nas and Tupac blare through an impressive sound system. The men working around the building move with purpose and intent, giving tours of the lofted space, shuffling through documents, or carrying supplies. Near the entrance door, metal beams frame the future location of an organic juice bar. There are large murals on the brick walls that were painted by the local artist Dana Woulfe, as well as a dedicated DJ nook with turntables. The steam rooms and saunas are luxurious, and the rain-showers in the locker rooms make it easy to forget you’re in a boxing gym.
This is all the brainchild of George Foreman III. Better known as Monk, he’s one of 10 children spawned from the two-time heavyweight champ, preacher, and portable grill mogul of the same name. After a short middle school stint at the Fay School in Southborough, Mass, Monk went on to earn a business degree from Rice University in his home state of Texas. From there, he worked as his father’s career manager and executive vice president of George Foreman Enterprises.
Catching the boxing bug himself, as a 26-year-old, Monk skipped the amateurs and entered the professional fight world. “I wanted to have an amateur career, but no one wanted to fight me,” he laughs. “I guess when you hear about a 6’4” heavyweight named George Foreman III it’s intimidating for them even though I had no experience. Going pro was the only way I could get people to show up–for the money.”
Now 30 years old, and with an impressive 16-0 record, George III has found himself back in the Commonwealth to punch in his latest effort: The Club, a state-of-the-art 15,000 square-foot boxing facility. Building on the slogan “Everybody Fights,” Monk hopes to inspire professional bruisers and business types alike with a gym that combines the heart and soul of a gritty hole-in-the-wall fight club with accoutrements fit for world champions.
The place opens on December 1. Despite being busy setting up his new shop, the legacy fighter and budding entrepreneur let us follow him around in the weeks leading up to the ribbon-cutting.
Over the past two decades, boxing in America has been largely relegated to athletic purgatory; there’s lukewarm reception for a sport that seems sandwiched between anti-violence critics on one side, and fans drawn to the rawness of MMA cage matches on the other. Though few would deny its role as an American institution, the fact remains that boxing has been struggling to regain a glimpse of its popularity from years past. Gone are the days of title matches captivating the attention of a nation. Besides a small group of elite household names–Floyd Mayweather, the Klitschko brothers–boxing has been operating in an era of somewhat anonymous champions.
At the same time, much of the attention boxing does enjoy comes on account of its brutality–not the union of brain and brawn that drew both Monk and his father before him deep into the fold.
“My father taught me that boxing is the grandfather of chess,” George says from behind his desk at The Club. This all sounds familiar, as I was raised in a household that was big on boxing in an age when greats like Tyson ruled the world. He continues: “Boxing is about strategy. People already know chess is about strategy, but people don’t assume boxing is about strategy … But it’s not really just guys punching each other in the face. On its highest level, the strategy starts when you meet the fighter. It starts when you know who their trainer is.
The goal is trying to understand how your opponent thinks. Once you understand that, you can adjust your strategy. But the hardest thing to do is figure that out.”
Somewhere in our waxing poetic about pugilism, I almost forgot to mention a 2002 Holyfield fight that I’d been thinking about since taking this assignment. By the eighth round, the area above his opponent’s left eye had become so grotesquely swollen that it seemed as if a conjoined twin had begun crowning from his skull. It was like a scene out of Total Recall; I squinted in horror at the pulsating mound as my father explained the definition of a hematoma.
There’s a metaphor somewhere in all of this. Monk has proven himself as a student and a fighter, and now sees his gym opportunity as the next contender. Like with boxing, business requires tough mental agility, and just like in the ring, some people are bound to get their clocks cleaned. George III seems to have the right idea–he’s following his heart and mind outside of the ropes, and putting self aside to knock his new endeavor out cold.
“Fighting is kind of brutal,” Monk says. “I really don’t like to fight. I love to train, I love the challenge, and I love winning the challenge. But the fight itself is the hurt business. I don’t fight just to beat people up or anything like that.
I’m in no rush. I could take two years off of boxing and the heavyweight champs are still older than me, and with a lot more wear and tear on their bodies. I already have 300 people signed up for my gym, and they’re depending on me and my team of trainers to get them fit. I can’t let them down. No matter how narcissistic boxing makes you, I know those people won’t let it become all about me.”