Fitness: Roll with the Punches

Northeast Portland's Knott Street Boxing Will Teach Any Willing Body to Fight

Yes, even you.

By Zach Dundas December 28, 2017 Published in the January 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

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Knott Street coach Stan Dunn (seated) with two young fighters

At Knott Street Boxing, the age-old club housed in Northeast Portland’s Matt Dishman Community Center, it goes way back: the trophies and belts, the faded newspaper clippings and photos, an archive dating to the early ’50s. But Stan Dunn, Knott Street’s coach for the last 15 years, will meet you where you are today.

“I used to say anyone 6 to 60,” he says one morning, unlocking the fluorescent-lit boxing gym. “Now I say 8 to 80.” Dunn, 65, eyes an underbuilt 40-something visitor toting a notebook. “Even a guy like you.”

Aspiring boxers start in front of the mirror. “So they can see what I see,” Dunn says, “and we can work to correct it.” From there, many go on to compete as amateurs, but many don’t. Either way, the discipline offers a specific path to fitness, structured by some hard truths.

“If you’re not physically fit, you can’t win,” says Dunn (seated above). “It’s a sport where you fight people your own age, your own weight. If you can’t handle your own weight and your opponent can, you’ve got problems.”

Most of Dunn’s current athletes are kids. In a city and culture in which some families can lavish thousands on youth soccer (or whatever), many Knott Street boxers can’t afford the $20 monthly youth fee. (The club charges adults $30 a month for near-daily workout opportunities.) The club subsists on donations from a few benefactors; a GoFundMe effort is currently live.

One of Dunn’s goals is refreshing the flow of trophies. But in other ways, Knott Street’s fight isn’t about the ring. It’s about getting decent new gear; it’s about checking in to make sure kids show up. “This is my whole life,” Dunn says. “I’m here for them.”

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