Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ringside Seat: Meet Paul Wade of Third Street Boxing Gym

Paul Wade (foreground) with (L to R) Jauquez Hackett, Maljanae Williams, Edward Gutierrez and Oscar Rivadeneyra.
The Dogpatch neighborhood is now home to wine bars, trendy restaurants, design firms and even a yoga studio but the neighborhood is still a place where a business that would have been at home in its gritty past is thriving.

In a nondescript building across from the sprawling American Industrial Center on a still ungentrified section of Third Street sits the Third Street Boxing Gym.

Opened in 2003 by Paul Wade and a business partner, but now solely owned by Wade, the gym thrives by offering a place where the traditional sport of boxing can be learned and potential talent nurtured.

The gym is also a place where the more typical fare of fitness can be experienced including the popular and trendy boot camps, kickboxing, personal training and cardio classes.

Wade and four other staff trainers are kept busy training the more than 300 members of all ages that call the gym home.

Surrounded by posters promoting fights ranging from long ago to more recent, we sat ringside with Wade as he regaled us with tales of his fighting antics and his love and respect for the "sweet science" of boxing, its fighters and its colorful past.

Why do you do what you do?

I've always wanted to own a boxing gym and I enjoy nurturing local talent.  I seem to naturally click with the young kids from the more challenging neighborhoods in San Francisco.

Growing up in Dublin, Ireland, I loved watching the great fighters and learning about such legends as Sugar Ray Robinson.

I studied karate for about eight years then became a professional kickboxer.  Kickboxing is a sport that requires a fighters' complete focus on and off the mat.  As a young fighter I was extremely focused and aggressive and that is an attitude that doesn't vanish when you leave the ring.  I won every fight I participated in except for one but eventually I decided to leave that sport -- I didn't want to live every day with an aggressive attitude whether or not I was competing.

I moved to San Francisco in 1993 and worked as a personal trainer.   I had a client that was a boxer and he inspired me to start training as a boxer.  My martial arts background with its reliance of on both mental toughness as well as physical training helped me become a good boxer.  In 2001 I won the San Francisco Golden Glove championship -- the name given to annual competitions for amateur boxing in the United States.

I really felt that San Francisco had a great boxing history but there weren't many boxing facilities left.  I wanted a place that honored that past and could be a place where boxers could be taken care of.  There is a saying in boxing that the closest thing to being a fighter is to be in the corner of the ring waiting to take care of your fighter.  That's part of what we do here.

Why Dogpatch?

Dogpatch in 2003 was very different than it is now -- much more deserted and gritty.  We often had car windows broken on our street and a few unsavory characters lingering about.

Traditionally boxing rings were located off the beaten path in an area where fighters could focus without being distracted on becoming champions.  So this area was perfect for us.

This was also a new building and still unoccupied so we could build it out how we liked.

Who is another interesting Dogpatch person you have met in Dogpatch?

Arienne Landry of Just for You Cafe.  People like her influence and change neighborhoods.  She's been in Dogpatch just a bit longer than we have.

What's an interesting story that has happened to you in Dogpatch?

Let's just say that I, along with some help from some other merchants, helped put a stop to some of the undesirable activities in the neighborhood.  My fighting background came in handy.

What would you be doing if you weren't sparring with the talent at your gym?

Back in Ireland my father encouraged me to have a trade I could fall back on so I'm trained as a plumber.  I'm doing what I love but if for some reason I couldn't do it I would be a plumber and try to stay out of trouble.

Article Written by Patricia Kline, Photos by Scott R. Kline

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