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Your School of Hard Knocks

What to look for when choosing a boxing gym.

How do you find a good boxing school? Take in a class. That's the best way to determine whether a gym is right for you. We asked Bruce Silverglade, owner of the legendary Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn, New York, for some advice on what to look for. Silverglade should know: 200 professional fighters are pursuing PhDs in the "sweet science" at Gleason's, including 4 world champs. Undergraduates are the white-collar boxers, 65 of whom are women.

Avoid gyms that permit immediate sparring. Beginners shouldn't spar until they've trained for at least 60 to 90 days.

That means you're in fighting condition and you know how to stand, balance, and throw punches in the right sequence. "Above all," says Silverglade, "you should know how to block punches."

Check to see that there's safe sparring.

Never climb into a ring without first donning headgear, a mouth guard, a groin/abdominal protector for men and a chest guard for women, and at least 14-ounce gloves. Don't forget to check out your opponent. "If a more experienced boxer says he'll go easy on you, don't believe him. There's no such thing as going easy."

Beware of high turnover.

A successful trainer has students who keep coming back. "The only way to learn a trainer's style is to stick with him. If people are switching on him, he's not a good teacher."

Look for trainers who show as well as tell.

"A good trainer has good demonstration skills. You might get an ex-boxer who really knows how to throw a punch, but it doesn't do you much good if he can't communicate it to you."

Meet the owner.

"Talk with the guy who's running the place. If you feel comfortable with him, chances are you'll feel comfortable in his gym."

Coordinates: Gleason's Gym, 718-797-2872; membership: $45, 30 days.

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