Like tattooing, boxing is well on its way to ridding itself of its bad reputation and being accepted as a mainstream and fashionable pastime. Welcome to the world of Boxing 2.0.
In New York, 2.0 boxing clubs have been around for a good ten years. In London and Paris, they are becoming increasingly numerous. It was in the British capital that Julien Rondeaux found inspiration for Go Box, a new gym concept, which he recently introduced to Brussels, reports Le Soir.
The 30-year-old Belgian ambassador of ‘glow’ boxing has found in the revisited version of this sport a good way to combine intense physical activity and moments of ‘glam’ relaxation, as he calls it.
At Rondeux’s Go Box gym on Rue Juste Lipse, it feels like a nightclub. The gym is lit with neon lights and there is dance music playing. It is very far from the spit-and-sawdust underground atmosphere of Rocky Balboa's early adventures.
However, if boxing is on the way to dethroning yoga in the hearts of hip sports addicts, it is because, inevitably, its somewhat outsider side speaks to us, agreed the founder of the very chic MC Boxing Club in Uccle, Maïté Czupper.
“Twenty years ago, when I started boxing, this sport was not yet trendy,” Czupper said. “As a doctor, I therefore wondered at length about the reasons that could explain my enthusiasm for this sport, with its violent reputation."
In fact, boxing is a philosophy, an incentive to surpass oneself and a school of life, she added. "During a class, when you hit your bag, you are all equal. For women who start out, it is also a real encouragement to dare to assert themselves. All the women in my club take months to dare to strike. It took me, for my part, two years before I no longer held my prejudices.”
A mix of muscle building, cardio training and endorphin creation, boxing is a complete sport that, in a post-pandemic concept, provides a real release.
"Two months after the opening of the centre, it is this aspect of 'letting go because you are allowed' that seems to please our members,” confirmed Rondeaux, who himself does not believe at all in the ephemeral side of the concept. “We are talking about a real sport here, not an experience that we test once, just like that,” he said.
Being 'glam' while sporting
It may be some time before we know if this new concept of boxing has longevity but until then, there are plenty of examples that suggest that an image upgrade is well underway.
Another example of boxing moving out of the shadows came when Olivia Borlée and Élodie Ouedraogo brought their fashion brand Unrun to Rondeux’s gym in the Schuman district of Brussels. In 2008, Borlée and Ouedraogo won the silver medal for Belgium in the 4x100 metres at the Beijing Olympics, and eight years after that, they won the ultimate award with the gold medal.
The fashion-loving champions then announced their retirement from sport and launched their lifestyle and sportswear brand: 4254. Recently, they provided attendees at the boxing club with a selection of their sporting attire to box in, combing fashion with boxing.
Exploiting the niche
Boxing is a very visual sport, recalled Maïté Czupper. In cinema, but also in fashion, it inspires creatives and artists. In the 70s – and still today – during a boxing match, the front row looks a bit like that of a parade: all the stars want to be there.
Brands have therefore not failed to exploit the niche either: there was the mythical Louis Vuitton campaign with Mohamed Ali as a guest star, but also the recent collaboration between Everlast, a famous brand of gloves and boxing clothing, and the Saint Laurent label.
This season, Dior will draw from this sport the central inspiration of its summer collection. Beyond the attraction for ample cuts and technical materials, it is in the 70s aesthetic, more than ever en vogue, that people must look for the reasons for this craze.
But beyond the style itself, it is likely the image of empowerment and inclusivity embodied by this sport that titillates designers like Maria Grazia Chiuri, whose every show for the Dior house is an opportunity to knock out many clichés.
Elsewhere, the old was seen embracing the new as Belgian boxer Hicham Moujtahid, a world star in his field, chose Rondeaux's club to shoot a promotional video. An unusual choice, which somewhat surprised Julien – what would a regular in the ring need from his neo-discotheque in neon colours?
As it turned out, it perfectly summed up the 360° turn that this sport is making, from shadowy underground to full technicolour mainstream redemption.