Once limited by its association with the grit of East London men’s clubs, boxing is heading up-market. We speak to the woman behind the sport’s luxury makeover, BXR London founder Olia Sardarova.
Boxing has come out of its niche of being associated as a sport only accessible to professional athletes and into the mainstream of everyday life.
From suspension training to primal fitness, London is in no shortage of cutting-edge fitness trends. But, despite having established its roots in the city long ago, in 2018 boxing is quickly becoming Londoner’s new holy grail. With loyal fans such as Adriana Lima and Doutzen Kroes, boxing is receiving international recognition as the go-to sport for dramatically improved fitness and an incredible physique. Pioneering the trend with the London’s first ever high-end boxing gym is Marylebone-based BXR. Landing on the scene a little over a year ago, the gym has quickly achieved a cult-like status. From collaborations with Selfridges and fashion icon Michele Lamy to a list of devotées that boasts the likes of Anthony Joshua, Mark Ronson and Victoria Secret’s model Sara Sampaio, BXR London is the gym you need to know. We speak to the gym’s founder Olia Sardarova about the creation of the brand and her take on the culture of boxing.
TBE: How did you get started with BXR?
Olia: Boxing has come out of its niche and into the mainstream. It used to be a sport only accessible to professional athletes. Now all the Victoria Secret models, the actors, the actresses post about it on social media, and there are studios popping up all over the city. After travelling to New York, and seeing the boxing studios there, I realised that there was absolutely nothing of good quality in London. But, boxing actually comes from England, the Queensberry Rules of boxing were written here in the London. The first ever recorded match was here, organised by a lord between his butcher and chef. I thought it was time there was a proper boxing gym here in the capital and, that’s how BXR was born.
TBE: Was it difficult to get people on board with the idea?
O: A lot of people have their doubts about boxing. Particularly it being relevant enough to be in central London because it’s still a pretty niche. But we’re not just about boxing, we’re a full-spectrum, performance gym. Anthony Joshua comes in here for his strength training, along with as a lot of other athletes – we’ve had NFL players come here. I think about 40% of our members don’t even come to BXR for boxing.
Boxing actually comes from England, the Queensberry Rules of of boxing were written here in the London.
TBE: What is the BXR philosophy?
O: ‘Train Like a Champion’, that’s our tagline and it’s the theory behind everything we do and the way things are structured. We took Anthony Joshua as the example and we looked at the way he trains; he does cardio training outside, he does strength conditioning with one coach in one place and he does skills in another. So, we brought together all the elements that build you as a professional athlete and created our program. We are actually coaching professional boxers who are at the start of their professional careers.
Boxing is about mental strength as much as physical strength. To reach that point you have to train with someone who’s actually experienced in the pressure, stress and fatigue of fighting. If you remember Anthony Joshua’s fight with Klitschko last year, the following interview that he gave, he made a valid point. Speaking on when he got knocked down early in the fight he said “when I stood back up I was like what do I do? because nobody ever prepared me for being knocked down, because I’ve never been knocked down” and these are important elements that need to be covered.
‘Train Like a Champion’, that’s our tagline and it’s the theory behind everything we do and the way things are structured.
TBE: How would you describe the fitness culture in the UK?
O: I think there’s a massive difference between American culture and English culture. The Americans are definitely 5 years ahead of us in terms of everything fitness. There are studios on every corner, they know exactly what they want. They don’t want to pay membership instead they mix it up. They know exactly what workout they want every day of the week; one day it’s Aerospace, another Barry’s Bootcamp, then pilates and yoga. There, people are pretty much also driven by publicity, and what they see on social media.
In England, people pay a little more attention to the fundamentals. They need to know it’s the real deal which is why, for me, it’s very important no-one writes about us as not being authentic because we put a boxing gym on a high end, Chiltern street. This is why I hired only professional fighters to teach.
TBE: How do you keep balance and stay on top of things?
O: Discipline. Not just with work but discipline with my downtime. This is the mistake I made in the first 3 months. I was working 16 to 20 hours a week because we were very understaffed and I was doing a lot of things myself. Looking back it was great because now I know how everything works in the gym but obviously, I was very worn down. So, 12 months later I was exhausted, hadn’t had that many holidays and I didn’t have time to see my kids as much as I need to, so now I pay more attention. I try not to come into the gym on Saturdays and Sundays anymore, and most importantly, I try not to touch my phone when I’m with my kids. These are little habits we acquire and they’re very important.
TBE: What has been your biggest learning curve so far?
O: I think the one thing I really underestimated before I started the business is how hard it is to manage people. That’s been for me the most difficult thing. Finding an approach to each person, understanding that some people are happy with my direct style of communication and then there are others that require a sugar coating on every single issue. Another thing is delegating. I don’t know if this is specific to women or to my personality type, but I find it difficult to let go and not to micromanage. I’ve read many books, I’ve got an economic and financial background and I’ve done a lot of management courses, but to learn what you do emotionally and psychologically you have to really be in there.
I’ve been brought up to embrace the fact that we are responsible for our own destiny. It’s our decisions that shape the future. I’ve literally got no one to blame for any mistakes that happen in the gym and in running the gym, they are my own. I just have to push through and find out how to make it better.
Launched in 2017, BXR London, is the world’s first high-end boxing gym. Dedicated to developing a championship mindset, they offer members the standard of training, facilities and advice expected by professional athletes, regardless of the level of ability.
Chiltern Street | London W1U 5QY | Entrance: 24 Paddington Street
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