On July 2nd, 2017, Jeff Horn stunned the world by upsetting Manny Pacquiao in a boxing match watched by more than 4 million viewers. It was the third fight in recent months to pass that threshold, signifying that boxing still has great potential to attract and engage fans in the sports and entertainment world.
Boxing is not a new concept to the fitness industry. The sport originated in the ancient Olympic Games in 7th century BC, and became an official Olympic sport in 1904, debuting at the Summer Games in St. Louis. Over the years, it’s gone through ebbs and flows in mainstream popularity. However historically, most boxing gyms have had a reputation of being gritty, bare-bones and exclusive — not something your average fitness consumer would join.
George Foreman III — the son of former two-time heavyweight boxing champion and Olympic gold medalist George Foreman — and business entrepreneur Anthony Rich, are looking to change boxing’s reputation as being inaccessible. In 2014, the duo co-founded EverybodyFights (EBF), a fitness franchise that seeks to help members “unleash their inner fighter.” Today, the brand boasts three standalone locations — two in Boston, and the latest in New York City — in addition to an in-club boutique model opening in Chicago.
“We are authentic boxing fitness, accessible to the masses,” said Rich. “When McDonald’s first started growing, their ‘special sauce’ was their fast food system. They took an existing model, and revolutionized it, making it simpler and more efficient. In the category of boxing fitness, we are revolutionizing it by making boxing fitness accessible, authentic and fun by teaching technique and training in a four-part class series. You don’t just hit a bag, you train like a fighter by running in our ROAD classes, boxing in our BAG classes, strength training in our TRAIN class series, doing MittWork in our FIGHT class series and meditating during our cool down.”
EBF’s standalone gyms are characterized by modern, stylish aesthetics, energetic atmospheres and high-end amenities. In addition to personal training and open gym, members can take advantage of unique, instructor-led classes spanning four categories — ROAD, BAGS, TRAIN and FIGHT — each of which are modeled after the training regimens of the world’s top boxing champions. Forty-five minute classes are held in three different classrooms on the gym floor, with a new class starting every 15 minutes, allowing participants to join at their convenience.
“We wanted to give people the experience of training like a real fighter, without having to step into the ring,” added Foreman III. “That’s what the fitness side of EBF is all about. The ethos side is providing a safe space to challenge people to channel their inner fighter and use it in a positive way, knowing that when they walk outside in their regular life, it can serve them at work, at home, in their everyday life.”
Foreman III knows the power boxing can have first-hand. From 2003 to 2009, after graduating from Rice University with a degree in kinesiology and business, Foreman III served as his father’s business manager. During this time, he picked up boxing as a hobby and avenue to lose weight. After dropping 70 pounds, he decided to take the next step and began boxing professionally.
“I had 16 professional fights and was undefeated,” recalled Foreman III. “Even when the people I was in the ring with were better than me, I was more conditioned. When they got tired I wasn’t tired. All of these things my dad taught me about how to compete — we practiced perfect technique every day, but even when I didn’t have the best skill the conditioning was there to get me through — these are the things I’m bringing into our boxing workout [at EBF].”
Foreman III defines EBF locations as “big boutique,” drawing inspiration from the best features of both high-end boutiques and big-box facilities. As a result, providing customers with a great experience is a major focus, which starts with offering talented trainers and instructors.
To attract and retain training talent, EBF strives to support hires in multiple ways, ensuring they have access to robust music playlists and pre-made workouts, and compensating fairly.
“Fitness is moving in the direction where more and more people are coming to you just for the connection with the trainer leading your class,” said Foreman III. “If you lose that trainer, they may never come back. At EBF, all [trainers] have to do is show up and have energy and be positive — they don’t have to worry about all the other stuff because we’ve got them covered.”
EBF’s “big boutique” model makes it attractive to one key demographic: Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000 — a group that has great buying power. According to market research conducted by Accenture, “There are roughly 80 million Millennials in the U.S. alone, and each year they spend approximately $600 billion.”
However, to capitalize on this buying power, companies must offer a customer-centric experience, which Accenture explained as tailored to their wants and needs as valued customers. “Millennials can be exceptionally loyal customers — provided they feel they’ve been treated right,” stated the research.
EBF builds customer loyalty through a concept Foreman III called “10 for 10,” which he described as being achieved when a company scores 10 out of 10 across the board for key indicators such as customer service, facility design, amenities, programming and overall customer experience.
“If you want to really give them an experience that’s going to change their day — the way it smells, the lighting, the music, high fives — all of these things have to be great,” said Foreman III. “The content of the workout, them feeling like you respected their time, the artwork, the texture of the bag when you hit it, the technology we use — making sure that from the moment members walk in the door from the moment they exit, there’s zero friction.”
The 10 for 10 concept, in addition to other factors, has paid off. In 2016, EBF received a minority growth-equity investment from Breakaway Ventures, a Boston-based brand agency and venture capital firm.
According to John Burns, the CEO of Breakaway Ventures, there were three key factors that made EBF stand out as a promising investment. “One, the fact that you can actually learn to box in a class-based environment,” he said. “Two, the community among the members of the clubs, and three, the amazingly talented team of trainers who make a huge difference to what we offer. It sounds rather generic, but what I am most excited about is how the whole experience comes to life, making for a truly one-of-a-kind offering.”
For Matt Harrington, the co-founder and president of GymIt, one of the most appealing aspects to the EBF model is its focus on boxing, a fitness program he has found personal benefit from. One of EBF’s in-club “boxes” sits within the GymIt in Watertown, Massachusetts, allowing the club’s members access to the EBF specialized programming.
“Boxing workouts appealed to me and made me want to explore [EBF] because I found boxing was not only one of the best combinations of cardio and strength in a single workout, but the learning curve made it interesting,” he said. “I liked the fact that you can see yourself improving and getting better every time you go back — which gave it almost an addicting quality.”
In August 2017, EBF’s third and newest standalone location is scheduled to open in New York City. Foreman III explained the 7,000-square-foot gym is the culmination of everything he and Rich have learned since opening the first EBF three years ago. “This should be the most spectacular boxing gym anyone has ever seen in terms of the facilities,” said Foreman III.
And moving forward, the plan is to bring this best-in-class boxing experience to additional markets beyond Boston and New York City.
“I’d like to see EBF clubs open in every major market here in the U.S., as well as in select locations internationally,” said Burns. “With the foundation we have in place I think this is possible. We are executing on a business plan as we speak to make that happen. Ultimately, we want EBF to be synonymous with boxing fitness.”
Photos courtesy of Josh Campbell.