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Overthrow boxing gym is building community first, muscles second

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"Everyone is fighting for something in life. Fighting to be heard. Fighting for peace of mind. You're fighting for equality. There's always a fight going on," says Power Malu. "Using boxing was very important for us because it was like, 'Okay, what can we do to keep people active, but at the same time create a space for them where they can have a voice?'"

Malu is the Director of Programming at Overthrow New York Boxing, a gym with two locations in the Lower East Side and Williamsburg. Malu was born in New York, and spent most of his childhood in the Masaryk Towers in the Lower East Side. His father, Angel Viera, boxed in the 1960's at Empire Sporing Club, the iconic East Village gym run by Cus D'Amato (famous for managing and training Mike Tyson).

"My dad used to bring me to the boxing gym when I was about eight years old, and I still remember the smell of it, and the whole essence of being in a boxing gym, and hearing the bags being hit, and watching people spar," says Malu.

Angel Viera with Cus D'Amato

Suffice to say, Malu's New York pride and roots run deep. He is a self-described "True Yorker." But at Overthrow, the gym he helped start with his friend Joey "The Soho Kid" Goodwin, their New York tradition is a little different.

"We definitely don't see the space fitting into the boxing scene of New York City or the history of boxing in New York City. What we do is we give people an opportunity to come to a space, learn techniques of boxing, and at the same time learn about self-respect, learn about over coming self-doubt, and learn about things that can give them a voice and empower themselves."

Rather than focusing on competition, which Malu describes as "intimidating," they are seeking to build a collaborative training space, where members can learn how to box in a more welcoming environment.

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But that doesn't mean they are not home to some serious fighters as well. For example, co-owner Alicia "The Empress" Napoleon is 9-1 with 5 knockouts in the World Boxing Association.

Alicia Napoleon Fight

Overthrow additionally hosts a range of community events, like a recent Los Sures art show (the Puerto Rican nickname for the neighborhood where their Brooklyn location is located), DJ and hip hop nights, and speakers from the punk scene. Leading up to the 2016 election, they drove a bus around streets of New York, complete with a punching bag with Donald Trump's face on it, registering people to vote.

"Politicians, government, they're not going to make any change unless we stir stuff up," says Malu. "We can't be passive anymore."

At Overthrow, where people gather to learn how to fight, there's not a whole lot of passivity going on.

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