Gym Spotlight

Molly “Fearless” McConnell Might Be Portland’s Biggest Boxing Secret

The two-time world champion builds a close-knit gym family with world-class technical training and workouts for all levels.

By Regan Breeden March 8, 2017

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McConnell's Boxing Academy is filled with vintage boxing memorabilia. 

Image: Regan Breeden

Tucked into an unassuming second-floor studio on Northeast Broadway, McConnell’s Boxing Academy offers what few gyms in Portland (or beyond) can: a date with a two-time world champion. Opened in 2012, the space is the brainchild of Molly “Fearless” McConnell, who stumbled into now-defunct Grand Avenue Boxing Club one day and followed a career trajectory that was a one-two punch of success up the amateur and professional boxing ladders. Now that she’s set her professional gloves to the side, she’s founded her own gym in a stripped-down former salsa studio, offering intense no-contact cardio, combat conditioning, and technique-oriented classes guaranteed to make you sweat.

Intimidated? Don’t be. “I’ve had women who told me that they sat in their car for an hour because they were so nervous,” McConnell says, settled in an office that, like her gym, is covered in a decade or more of boxing memorabilia, from photograph-collaged doors to a statement wall showcasing the left-hand wraps worn by members of the elite team in the competition ring. “If I can get people in here, I know I can make them feel comfortable enough that they’re going to have a good time.”

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McConnell leads a class at McConnell's Boxing Academy.

Image: Regan Breeden

McConnell makes her classes accessible to everybody—from heavily toned MMA fighters (counted among her private training clients) to stressed-out oncologists and middle school teachers, to boxing newbies in search of a new workout plan. She adamantly rejects the model set forth by traditional gyms, where “you go there, the door’s open, you go in and hit stuff, and go home.” 

Calling herself an “excellent boxer” but a “better teacher,” she follows the more structured approach of martial arts, where the why of a movement becomes as important as the how. While traditional gyms might throw you in an open space with the more experienced players and coach you to emulate the steps, McConnell’s classes are designed to engage the interests of every boxer in the room, regardless of skill level. “Obviously the workout is important,” she says. “But we want people to have a good time. That’s what keeps them coming back.” 

While there are many things to keep you coming back for more—including world-class coaches like Leonard Trigg, who works with the invitation-only elite competition team and trained McConnell throughout her career; the sweat-inducing classes, which are varied and focused on skill level and areas of interest; and the pristine-clean workout space—it’s the sense of community that makes McConnell’s a mainstay for local boxing aficionados and curious newcomers. 

“The community we have here is a really important aspect of what we do, so not only do you get empowerment from the actual activity of boxing, but you also get it from the people here, the support,” McConnell says. And you don’t have to look far to see it in action. Those photographs on the walls feature candids and Christmas cards from clients both old and new, and above the mirrors are photos of superheroes representing the elite competition team members.

My biggest thing is helping present this to a wider audience of adults who wouldn’t necessarily think about trying it,” McConnell says. “I want those people to come in and experience what it’s like. And I think we do a pretty good job of that.”

McConnell’s Boxing Academy
707 NE Broadway St #201
$99 per month for unlimited classes and open gym

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