BEST PLACE FOR A SELF-CONFIDENCE-BUILDING WORKOUT (2006)

Central Boxing Club

Don't be intimidated if you see Mike Tyson working out nearby, because what the Central Boxing Club is more about is honing the pugilistic skills of average folks. Really. Iron Mike and other big-name fighters, including Julio Cesar Chavez, have trained at the club. But the main emphasis of general manager Harwood Hamilton, a former champion on the Toughman non-professional boxing circuit, is providing everyday clients (he has about 150 so far) around Phoenix with an exercise routine that will not only keep them in formidable shape but will give them the confidence to walk the mean streets of P-town with a definite swagger. He calls it his "motivational fitness program." The workout is open to almost everybody (children 8 and above must have the permission of their parents), and the day we were there, a couple of middle-age ladies were bobbing and weaving with the gloves on. After you've worked up to it that is, done your time on the numerous punching bags around the gym, plus mastered jump-roping you will enter the ring with the affable Tony Roberts of the boxing-workout circle. And though he's built like a compact NFL running back, Harwood Hamilton won't hurt you much. He'll train you to handle yourself with your fists. And we can tell you from experience that boxing is one of the best full-body workouts available right up there with swimming and sex, only it streamlines your reflexes as a bonus. Prices range from $130 to $210 a month, depending on how much intensity you can stand. A couple of Hamilton's clients we talked to considered this a bargain, considering they were getting into peak shape while learning how to (God forbid they will have to, but you never know in the big city) throw a punch. Don't be put off by the seedy location; there are plenty of muscle-bound guys around for security. Also, the venerable gym's been refurbished with murals of great fighters outside and to the extent that you could eat off the floor inside. No smell of sweaty jockstraps here.

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