Historic New York boxing gym opens its doors to Veterans

Not even the rumble of the F train can drown out the sounds of shuffling shoes, jump ropes and the rhythm of gloved hands striking heavy bags at Gleason’s Gym – America’s oldest active boxing gym. Muhammad Ali, Jake LaMotta, and Mike Tyson have trained at the “cathedral of boxing.” Located on the banks of the East River in the DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood of Brooklyn, Gleason’s Gym is owned and operated by Vietnam Veteran Bruce Silverglade.

Silverglade, who has owned the gym since 1983, had long been interested in creating a training program for Veterans, but wasn’t sure he could do it on his own. “I got a call from the VA hospital in Manhattan, from a fella by the name of Jonathan,” said Silverglade. “He came over to talk to me about a program they had.”

In the following weeks, Silverglade and VA’s New York Harbor Healthcare System’s clinical coordinator for prosthetics, Dr. Jonathan Glasberg, developed the framework for the Veterans in the Ring boxing training program offered at Gleason’s Gym.

“The first thing that gets done is you get medical clearance” said Glasberg. “That clearance lasts for a full year.”

Once a Veteran is cleared, they’re eligible to train at Gleason’s seven days a week, from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“It’s a terrific program,” said Silverglade, who provides all the equipment at no cost and foots the bill for a professional trainer, twice a week. “Everybody looks the same. Everybody is sweating out there. You don’t know who is an executive from Wall Street making gobs of money; who is from the projects with very limited money; who is a fireman, who is a doc, who is a police man, who’s a Veteran. Everybody just melds into one another and trains the same and gets along.”



Ben Pekkanen

Ben is a storyteller with a background in commercial filmmaking and television production. He began as an I.A.T.S.E. grip/electric in New Orleans’ feature film market before transitioning to television. Ben specializes in directing, cinematography and editing, and leads VA’s Digital Media Engagement production team. He holds degrees from Tulane University (BA, Media Arts) and University of Maryland (MFA, Creative Writing).


  1. Ross Kasminoff    

    Here’s a similar organization, but tailored specifically for those with Parkinson’s Disease, one of the presumptive illnesses caused exposure to Agent Orange. See if there’s one in your area: https://rocksteadyboxing.org

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