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 multimedia storyteller with a comprehensive background in commercial filmmaking and television production. He spent 10 years in I.A.T.S.E. Local #478 working grip & lighting in New Orleans’ iconic feature film market before transitioning to broadcast television in 2003. Since becoming the Digital Media Engagement video production team lead in 2015, Ben’s work has brought home two Emmy® Awards for VA. He specializes in directing, cinematography and editing and his career includes work for HBO, MTV, NFL Films, CBS, NBC and FOX. Ben has a BA from Tulane in Media Arts and an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Maryland.


  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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