Cape Cod Boxing Club: Finding its Pugilistic Niche in Hyannis
By: Lindsey Crane, January 1, 2013
“Don’t try to think of what you’re doing, just react,” Coach Tom Twomey directs to 18-year-old Grace McCloy while the two of them spar. “It’s a matter of hand and eye coordination,” Twomey patiently continues, attempting to simplify seemingly complicated boxing maneuvers to his young student.
“Lean into it! Don’t forget your stance,” yells fellow gym member Ray Gabriel, 49, to McCloy from the sidelines of the ring, encouraging her to remember the basic—albeit crucial—boxing stance.
It’s a typical weeknight open gym at Cape Cod Boxing Club in Hyannis, located in a warehouse complex on Ferndoc Street.
As the owner and head trainer, Twomey, 52, has coached both aspiring and experienced pugilists here since he founded the club in 2006. Members, currently numbering around thirteen, run the gamut from a 12-year-old encouraged by his father to learn self-defense moves to a 78-year-old former professional boxer who occasionally drops in to work out.
“It’s a lot of fun and you’re learning something,” explains the full-time Barnstable police sergeant. “My goal is: when someone leaves here…each night, they leave with something that they didn’t know before and that’s the benefit of this gym,” he continues.
While Twomey says his gym may bear some similarities to a traditional one, he clarifies that it is basically a specialty club. “It’s either you like boxing or you don’t. You wanna learn boxing or you don’t,” he says with the inflection of his native Brockton. He explains most participants come to the ring—so to speak—with a strong desire to become immersed in the sport.
However, the coach notes that occasionally students are more intrigued by the intense physical workout boxing offers, rather than in competing. “If you wanna just come in here and get fit and get into a fighter’s condition, I can help you get there—without taking the punches, you know?” reiterates Twomey. He maintains there is “no obligation” for his students to spar—to box in short practice bouts with one another while wearing protective gear.
Twomey himself knew immediately that boxing was his passion. “Ever since my first workout, I was hooked,” says the coach, who took his first lesson in the sport as a senior at Westfield State University. Coincidentally, Twomey hails from the same hometown that bred the man he names as his all-time boxing idol: Rocky Marciano, the professional boxer (killed in a plane crash in 1969) who was considered an undefeated Heavyweight champion throughout his career.
Upon graduating with a degree in criminal justice, the coach moved to the Cape to work as an officer for the Falmouth Police Department. During this time, Twomey kept up with his boxing trainings in a room at the police headquarters, entered a couple of amateur competitions, and also joined the Mass State Police Boxing Department (a club that he is still involved with and occasionally competes with).
Dedication To Sport Grows
Cape Cod Boxing Club
After 10 years with the Falmouth force, Twomey moved on to the Barnstable Police Department. He persisted with his dedication to the sport, established a makeshift gym in the basement of this department, and began informally training other officers who showed an interest in boxing.
Twomey notes that although he was asked twice to turn professional throughout his boxing career, he declined for a few reasons. He explains, firstly, that he simply did not have the time “to devote to individual boxing” required of a professional boxer, since he has always had a full-time career outside of the sport. Secondly, he says that he just “…didn’t have the desire to do that [turn pro]. I enjoy working on the amateur level: teaching amateur boxing more so than doing the professional.”
The concept of Cape Cod Boxing Club formed when the coach met E.J. Jaxtimer, the owner of the Ferndoc warehouse complex, through colleagues at the police department. The builder was opening an informal gym for his employees in one of his units and asked Twomey if he was interested in establishing a boxing club next door. (Twomey’s club is not affiliated with any other gym, however.) Twomey says he considered Jaxtimer’s offer and assistance to be a “great opportunity” to take his love of the sport in a different avenue: Teaching.
Prospective boxers usually learn of Twomey’s venue through word of mouth or by stumbling upon the club’s website or Facebook page. Members pay a set monthly fee for unlimited use of the facilities and access to coaching weeknights to “work on whatever progress they’re at,” says Twomey. The coach, who received his boxing trainer certification through USA Boxing, a governing body of amateur boxing (ranging from the Olympic to the local level), says he typically does several rounds in the ring with a student as well as covering the various other stations throughout the gym.
Just as participants’ individual experiences with the sport vary, so do their fitness levels, according to Twomey. “I’ve had people that come in here and told me they’ve never worked out before and I says, ‘You wanna start boxing?’” Twomey says incredulously. “‘Okay. That’s fine, but we’re gonna take it slow,’” he continues, explaining that “just the warm-ups alone [are] what most people do as a workout.” For the pre-boxing routines, Twomey incorporates a combination of cardio, strength, and core training.
In addition to Twomey, there are three other official trainers of the club, present at one time or another, to assist members. Two of the trainers began as Twomey’s students, expressed an interest in learning to teach the craft, and eventually became USA Boxing-certified trainers as well, says the coach. The remaining trainer, Kevin Green, was already a proficient boxer when he joined the gym, having learned the sport from 78-year-old fellow club member George Maddox, the aforementioned former professional fighter.
Trainer Lee Docherty, a soccer coach at Barnstable High School, was already a certified personal trainer when he began boxing with Twomey about four years ago. Docherty, 31, operates a segment of his non-profit organization UKSD (which organizes high school students throughout the Cape to volunteer to teach sports, fitness, and boxing clinics to youth of all abilities) out of the club’s headquarters and also uses the space for independent personal training sessions.
New Headquarters For Club
Measuring in at 2,000 square feet, the club’s third incarnation in the Ferndoc warehouse complex boasts a weight room, an 18x18 ring, and an array of various punching bags. Twomey states the club’s current (and hopefully last, according to the coach) headquarters is “just perfect” compared to the tiny 750-square-foot warehouse that housed the club during its original stages and the second location that proved too overwhelming to maintain at 5,000 square feet.
The gym itself is fully licensed and insured through USA Boxing New England Association, Inc. (a subdivision of the larger USA Boxing), which oversees amateur boxing throughout New England. According to the organization’s website, there is only one other gym on the Cape besides Twomey’s club licensed through this organization. “There’s very little,” Twomey reiterates, in terms of the amount of Cape boxing clubs.
Even though there may be limited resources available to area pugilists, at least one of Twomey’s members attests that fighters need not look further than Cape Cod Boxing Club. “You get everything you need right here with Tom,” states Gabriel, who has been attending the gym for over two years. The boxer explains he used to frequent Boston boxing clubs, but Twomey’s gym became more convenient for him since he doesn’t work in the city much anymore. He says he usually makes the trek from his home in Bourne to the club about three or four times per week.
“It’s a great place for me,” says Gabriel, taking a break from tenaciously snapping punches on a heavy bag. “It gets harder and harder the older you get,” he openly admits of the sport. He says he often spars with Twomey, but explains he “can’t keep up with some 19-year-old kid…they’re just too fast, you know what I mean?”
Nevertheless, Gabriel stresses that it is crucial for a serious boxer to maintain his or her physical condition. “The opponent is not really gonna be nice. He’s gonna try to take your head off,” he says while explaining that if one wants to compete, “It’s not a sport you can do—once in a while…you need to have your strength up.”
“You learn about yourself. If you’re a quitter, you give up…if you really hunker down and you try your hardest in here, you will do the same thing [beyond the ring] and apply it towards your life. Here you learn that when it hurts, you keep going…For me, it’s the only sport,” says Gabriel, elaborating on his broader philosophy of the sport.
Females Drawn To Boxing
McCloy, one of only a few current female members of the club, echoes Gabriel’s zeal. “So far, I absolutely love it,” says the Centerville resident, who, at the time, had been attending the gym for about a month. “Most of the men have been very supportive…If I’m struggling, they do not hesitate to come over and help me out,” she explains. “But, I am the only girl, so it’s a little—nerve wracking,” she admits, not having worked with any other female members yet.
Twomey notes, when asked, that he greatly enjoys training women boxers. “There are some women I’ve had in here that I would put against any guy ‘cause they were that good…and then there would be some guys that I wouldn’t put against the women ‘cause I knew she would probably do ‘em in pretty good. It all depends on the individual. As far as women, I’ve found…when they come in here and they train, they train hard,” says the coach.
As far as the younger participants of the club are concerned, Twomey, himself a father of two, says he hopes his club will provide youth with more ambition and a will “to strive to do their best” both inside the ring and beyond. “It really does help you focus,” the coach says, explaining that parents of his young students have reported that their child’s grades improved after beginning lessons.
And, so far, Twomey is fulfilling his mission of educating Cape residents on the positive elements of a sport that historically has been somewhat shrouded in notoriety. He says he hopes to continue with a series of shows called “Saturday Night Fights,” the first of which he held in March of 2011 at the Hyannis Youth and Community Center to showcase youth and adult boxing talent on the Cape and to “let people know that boxing is still alive here.” The coach also enters interested students into USA Boxing-approved matches throughout New England, when he feels the individual is ready “mentally and physically.”
“It definitely builds confidence,” Twomey says when asked what the craft can offer a boxer on a more psychological level. “That confidence will carry with you out in the real world as well, you know, the challenges…”