Christabel Milbanke is in awe of the glossy boutique boxing establishment in Marylebone, backed by Victoria's Secret models and IBF star, Anthony Joshua.
Backed by IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, BXR is a new state of the art members-only fitness facility in London, offering the highest level of professional boxing training in the most luxurious and authentic fighting and training space. With an eclectic founding committee that includes Victoria’s Secrets models Sara Sampaio and Maryna Linchuk as well as UK DJ/music producer Mark Ronson and André Balazs, owner of celebrity-friendly Chiltern Firehouse just down the road, BXR is set to make serious lunges in both the fitness and social scene.
I dropped by to explore the vast two-floor 12,000 sq ft site in its final stages of construction and meet with the two owners and young entrepreneurs behind BXR: Neil Sanyal and Olia Sardarova. Situated on Marylebone’s Chiltern Street, the boutique boxing gym stands out with its imposing six metre-high triple glass frontage. It allows city commuters and passers-by a glimpse of the gods at ground level, hard at work training or sparring in the full-size boxing ring by Ringcraft.
With a background in the food and beverage market, Sanyal is a voluble visionary dedicated to the concept of BXR as not just a gym with a boxing ring, but a game-changing brand, ‘one of our remits’ he says excitedly, ‘is to create one of the most, if not the most aspirational British lifestyle and fitness brands ever.’
Tempering Sanyal’s business instinct with the facts and figures, is Sardarova who has a financial background, previously working in banking, ‘I was studying economics and finance since I was a teenager,’ she says. While studying for an MBA at Imperial College she met Sanyal who introduced her to his idea of building a business that embraced the current cultural shift to health consciousness, ‘I wrote a dissertation piece as a business plan on this project. - It got a distinction.’
Together they assessed and analysed the UK marketplace taking into account the growing social media trend for young women trying the sport, ‘It came from America,’ says Sardarova, ‘models and actresses started posting about boxing and the great effect it had on their arms, and its efficacy as a cardio workout. Suddenly the information was out there that it’s not just for athletes, fighters or men. That’s how it became so fashionable. We aim to be the brand on the cusp at trend-setting, encouraging people who may have not even been so interested in being fit, to become so.’
‘Team GB just came second,’ confirms Sanyal, ‘we have the likes of Nicola Adams, who are encouraging women to take part in sparring and we have Victoria’s Secret models who box very well and take it seriously. There’s a phenomena and respect around athletes, and so much class and British heritage in boxing. But there hasn’t been a disruptive, super-creative and innovative British fitness brand, and there should be.’
Their research also uncovered a significant undersupply of high-end gyms in Marylebone, as well as a general concentration of stale fitness concepts in London as a whole, ‘It will be the nicest gym in London.’ says Sanyal, ‘we are creating a sanctuary, bringing together the authenticity of a local East End boxing gym together with the edginess of New York.’ The interior design is courtesy of designers Marie Soliman and Albin Berglund of Bergman-Interiors. They have created an incredibly beautiful and impressive industrial style space with 20 feet exposed concrete walls featuring bespoke murals of Sugar Ray Leonard, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali.
Together Sanyal and Sardarova have curated an elite team of trainers consisting of London’s most reputable boxing coaches, ex-champion boxers, MMA fighters and some of the top sports therapists and osteopaths. Including Jamie Reynolds – Anthony Joshua’s head strength & conditioning coach and Dr Mike Loosemore of CHHP (Centre for Health & Human Performance), they make sure members receive the same level of advice and consultation that a professional athlete would expect. The exclusive members club, spearheaded by superstar boxer Anthony Joshua, is marketed at those who want to train and fight like and alongside boxing champions and Victoria’s Secret models, not excluding those who just want to workout at an exciting alternative to the standard gym set-up.
Part of this includes ‘Sweat by BXR’, offering more accessible pay-as-you-go classes that follow athletic preparation in the three studios downstairs. Sardarova believes that this is a great way to encourage women to eventually train, ‘We are looking at it as our loyalty platform for training in the ring. A lot of women at the moment find it a little bit intimidating to go straight into the ring, so the concept is, downstairs our clients will be able to build the basic foundations of the skills required to box. If they then want to take it more seriously, they can become a member and train with some of the best boxing, strength and conditioning coaches in London.’
All the training equipment comes from the trusted brands professionals use such as Keiser, Technogym, Wattbike, Hammer Strength and Eleiko. Members are also able to accurately measure and personally track their progress using the fully-integrated smartphone app, camera feeds and other analytic tools powered by RNF Digital.
BXR will have an in-house clinic, consisting of three treatment rooms powered by CHHP, Sanyal explains, ‘we are the first gym to fully integrate rehabilitation properly and can take insurance work. Making sure you not only train like a champion, but recover like one too’.
Members can also expect the latest state of the art technology when it comes to the music, which Sanyal believes is key in creating the right atmosphere, the gym is fitted with TPI Sound speakers, popular in the top Ibiza superclubs Mark Ronson plays at.
Food and drink is provided by Danish juicery Joe & The Juice who have collaborated with BXR to create a bespoke fitness menu including pre-workout shots, post-workout protein shakes and healthy salads to be consumed within the ultimate post-workout-hangout: the Ringside Lounge. – A large social area where members can integrate and conduct business from.
BXR is very much a spectatorial fight-centric gym, much like a Roman amphitheatre, those who are training will overlook the gladiators in the boxing ring at its core. This encourages what Sanyal and Sardarova are trying to promote: the cult of BXR, and the idea that one doesn’t just simply go to the gym for superficial and physical strengthening but also for mental strengthening and to develop ones survival instincts during these times of uncertainty. ‘We are living in times where Trump’s becoming president,’ says Sanyal, ‘there are so many unknowns in the world. We’ve seen a shift where previously people were waiting until Friday to have a bender of a weekend. Whereas now, people are looking to wake up early on Monday and self-develop every week. It doesn’t matter if you’re a model or a billionaire here, aspirationally everyone should look up to the world heavyweight champion. At BXR we are building a cult of being the best fighter you can be, physically in the ring and mentally in the outside world.’
A limited number of invitation-only lifetime memberships will be available (POA) and founding memberships start at £1,500 per annum. BXR opens in January 2017.