City of Angels Boxing
It’s been said the answer to simplicity is subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful. Founder Alex Brenes did just that with his Downtown gym, City of Angels Boxing. The gym’s layout is understated but classic, consisting of a boxing bag jungle, a gold sparring ring, and various exercise machines – all illuminated by a large skylight. Having grown up training in an often-violent Costa Rican town, Brenes brought the same scrappy determination from his humble childhood gym to Los Angeles, but added the equipment they never had – making it the potent, urban-decay-in-the-bestway gym it is today.
First to greet you at the gym is a 14-foot Muhammad Ali, one of many impressive murals Brenes commissioned for the space. The mural of a Sugar Ray Leonard fight Brenes first watched as a twelve-year-old adorns the outer wall of his gym office; a mural he gazes up at with the same profound awe that small town tykes reserve for superheroes.
Though it may be Instagramable, don’t be fooled – CoA Boxing is a gym for blood, sweat, tears and spills. Whereas most L.A. gyms are so immaculate and air-conditioned members don’t break a sweat, CoA Boxing aims for “an atmosphere much more conducive to good boxing,” Brenes says. At CoA, patrons are trained like real fighters, regardless of their fitness goals — and a bit of gravel in the gut is not just welcomed, but encouraged.
In terms of his training ethic, proper preparation is paramount to Brenes. Unfortunately, “there’s a lack of seriousness today within fitness studios willing to let anyone spar immediately” in an effort to attract more clients, Brenes explains. CoA Boxing relies on no such cache, and Brenes will only allow a boxer to spar “once they’ve shown an exceptional level of commitment and skill.” The team firmly believes in the mantra “what you give is what you get,” so maximum effort during class and regular training is expected in order to obtain the best results. While gym-goers are welcome to “do whatever they want outside the gym, they’re going to pay for it when they come back in,” Brenes quips.
With over twenty-one years of boxing experience, Brenes affirms that he is not simply in it for the money, but because he genuinely loves the sport. Thus, CoA Boxing does not aim to lock all who enter into returning with an ironclad membership. Everyone is welcome to sign up on a class-by-class basis, while those seeking more commitment can enjoy wallet-friendly weekly to monthly memberships.
The gym also works with nonprofit Athletes in the Making, helping underprivileged children secure at least one hour of guided exercise per day, and sponsors an impressive array of amateur boxers: four teams in Costa Rica, one in Kenya, and one from Belize.
So, take an hour to train like a real fighter for a cause, and head over to City of Angels Boxing. Whether it’s by the stylish space, the vibrant trainers, or someone’s right fist, you’re sure to get hooked.
Written by Lucy Rogers-Ciaffa
Photographed by Eric Cacioppo