Sugarrays brings boxing to gritty Front Street

Brennan Williams believes boxing gyms belong under bridges. So that’s where he put his new Sugarrays Boxing and Fitness Club.

Well, not quite a bridge. But the east end of Front Street where the remaining bulk of the old concrete parkade blocks out the sun and locks in the noise of passing trucks.

Brennan Williams takes a break in the custom-built ring at his new Sugarrays Boxing Gym on Front Street.

There’s no place Williams, who grew up in Burnaby but has deep family roots in the Royal City going back three generations, would rather be.

“New West has an old history,” says Williams. Perfect for pugilists.

“It’s a classic sport, it’s got a culture,” says Williams. “Everybody has something in their history that connects them to boxing.”

Even if it’s just a memory of watching a Rocky movie.

Sugarrays has been a part of Vancouver’s boxing scene for more than 16 years, first on Granville Street downtown and currently in Kitsilano.

Williams, who learned the sweet science at the gym under legendary coach Bob McAdam and now passes on his knowledge to  prospective boxers aged 16-60, had no doubt where he wanted to locate Sugarrays second facility. He was tiring of the long commute into Vancouver.

Sugarrays New Westminster gym opened Oct. 1 at 425 Front St. after months of construction, including the installation of a custom-built ring, dozens of heavy and speed bags, a weight station and spin bikes. A projector beams boxing matches on a whitewashed cinderblock wall, a collage of framed black and white photos of famous and unknown boxers looms over the reception counter. The 3,000 square foot gym doesn’t yet have the worn-in sweat and spit ambiance of a classic old-time boxing gym; that mostly exists outside the front door, beneath the hulking parkade.

Brennan Williams grew up in Burnaby but he has deep family roots in New Westminster, so he had no doubts where he wanted to locate his second Sugarrays Boxing Gym.

Williams says the gym is in the business of training fighters, but there’s no requirement to face an opponent in the 15-foot training ring. The boxer’s fitness regime is what attracts most members.

Brennan Williams, of Sugarrays Boxing Gym, says a boxer’s training workout can be grueling. That may explain the puke bucket hanging in a corner of the gym’s custom-built ring.

That can be comprised of a 30-45 minute circuit of skipping, dips, rope climbs, pedalling the stationary bike and strengthening the abs, plus an hour of running and  10 rounds of pounding the various leather bags.

“It’s a tough workout,” says Williams. “It takes real grit.”

Sugarrays is open seven days a week; 2 – 10 pm on weekdays, 10 am – 3 pm on weekends.

This story was originally published on Tenth to the Fraser.

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