All images by Fiona Beswick
May 10, 2021
These photos of legendary Gleason’s Gym get up close and personal
Photographer Fiona Beswick has been shooting (and training) at Gleason's Gym for six years, resulting in an intimate body of work
Down on Water Street in Dumbo in an unassuming building is an unassuming boxing gym. On the wall inside there is an inscription from Virgil’s Aeneid: “Now, whoever has courage, and a strong and collected spirit in his breast, let him come forward, lace on the gloves and put up his hands.”
Gleason’s Gym, which claims to be the country’s oldest boxing gym, dates to 1937, when it first opened in the South Bronx. Its founder, Peter Robert Gagliardi was a flyweight turned bantamweight who had changed his name to Bobby Gleason in order to appeal to New York’s mostly Irish fight audience. Jake LaMotta, the middleweight champ who “Raging Bull” was based on, trained at Gleason’s. So did other local legends, like Mike Belloise, Phil Terranova and Jimmy Carter (not THAT Jimmy Carter), who all fought their way to titles.
Gleason’s moved to Brooklyn in 1987, just four years after the gym began allowing women to train there. In 2015 Fiona Beswick went for the first time and was, she says, “immediately captivated.”
Beswick, a student a photographer from Williamsburg, has spent the last six years shooting at Gleason’s on and off. “I entered into a completely new world, filled with the rhythmic sounds of boxers hard at work; gloves hitting heavy bags, jump ropes slapping the concrete floor, and coaches yelling instructions at their fighters,” she says. “Its crimson red walls are adorned with past boxing champions, bringing the gym’s history to life.”
The energy Beswick witnessed during her initial visit to Gleason’s motivated her to begin training herself. Here are some of her images, which give us a close look at both strength and tenderness—right where you least expect them to converge.
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