Fit 2 Box: Building confidence through boxing and fitness
Boxing guru Joshua Rivera has utilized his love for the sport to help fulfill fitness needs and strengthen the Sunset Park community that raised him.
The sport of boxing has been a staple of the Rivera family for generations.
Along with his father, aunts and uncles, Joshua Rivera remembers watching the likes of fellow Puerto Ricans Félix Trinidad and Miguel Cotto rise the ranks of the boxing world to win numerous championships in multiple weight classes.
Born and raised in Sunset Park, in Brooklyn, New York to Puerto Rican parents, Rivera proudly carries the work ethic they instilled in him.
However, his passion for both the sport of boxing and his community would later become huge catalysts for his future business ventures.
At a young age, he became intrigued with the idea of becoming a business owner, stating that “having a boxing gym with my father was a dream of mine.”
After going to business school and learning the intricacies of running a business, Rivera tapped that hard work ethic and eventually decided to make the venture.
In September 2019, Rivera officially opened his own boxing and fitness studio, Fit 2 Box, in Industry City, just 10 blocks away from where he was raised.
“I was fortunate enough to learn [boxing] with my father, who was incredibly knowledgeable in the sport, and I was able to tie in both of them,” said Rivera, adding that opening the studio allows him to tap into both his love for boxing and interest in business.
One of the other major motives for opening Fit 2 Box was due to the big fitness need Rivera wanted to fill in his community.
“I think there’s a lack of group fitness,” he said.
At Fit 2 Box, members are able to learn how to get in shape in a community atmosphere, and in a manner that is more engaging than most traditional exercising techniques.
“Boxing gives you that extra element where you’re learning as you go, and it’s a sport where you can learn together,” Rivera added.
Prior to opening his business, Rivera collaborated with after school programs across Sunset Park and Bedford Stuyvesant to help provide non-contact boxing programs for youth in those communities.
In those programs, the youth learned the principles of self-defense and exercise, as well as the mental health aspect of fitness training.
Fit 2 Box has also established a women’s boxing class as a way to create a safe space for women to train, gain confidence, as well as encourage and motivate each other in a male-dominated profession.
“That kind of aspect of the business is really what’s driving the success,” said Rivera. “The women boxers are currently the best that we have at the studio now… [and] that’s something that I’m really proud of.”
Beyond the physical aspects of the studio, Rivera also puts an emphasis on the mental component that going to the gym can have on an individual.
“I focus heavily on the environment that’s established in the gym,” he said, noting that one of the most valuable and important times people endure at a gym are the few minutes before and after class.
“Those conversations and relationships that are being built, whether by me or other members of the gym, are fostered by that energy,” Rivera added. “Building those relationships before and after class is really what keeps people coming back, knowing they have kind of like a family and friends that they can train with, encourage and hold accountable.”
Being born and raised in Sunset Park, Rivera has seen the changes that have occurred in the community, both good and bad.
His understanding of that dynamic, added with the employment jump in Industry City - which has seen the number of jobs increase from 1,900 jobs in 2013 to nearly 8,000 jobs today - made the decision to open his business there an easy one.
“As a young kid, I wanted to see myself in different spaces and I never really had that example,” Rivera said. “So, I want to encourage the next [generation of] youth… and adults [so] that we can occupy spaces that are not necessarily traditional to what we’d been accustomed to in the past.”
That has been a goal of Rivera’s even before opening Fit 2 Box. Prior to that, Rivera and a friend formed an organization called THREAD, which connects the Sunset Park community to the new developments in Industry City.
“We want it to be that bridge where we could establish networks, establish connections and ultimately try to connect jobs with the community,” said Rivera.
Rivera’s endeavors go far beyond the teachings that occur within the confines of a class. At Fit 2 Box, Rivera encourages members to build confidence within themselves.
His belief is that the sport of boxing lends itself to do so, given its self-defense factor and the opportunity to learn a great deal about yourself in the process.
As Sunset Park and Industry City continue to evolve, Rivera wants to leave his imprint in the community in a way that allows others to follow their dreams in the same way he is doing so.
He’s created a space for men, women and youth to aspire to be what they choose through hard work, dedication and confidence.
“Sunset Park means the world to me. It’s all I really know and I just want to see more people who look like me following in that path, as well,” he said.