Scott Township boxing club offers opportunity for all ages
Jeff Mucci paced between the two 24-foot boxing rings at his gym last week, calling out instructions to 10 fighters between the ropes.
“Don't just throw an arm punch!” he said to one. “Turn your toes!”
“It looks like you're cowering,” he said to another, who was defending against a left cross.
Watching five sparring matches at once can't be an easy job, but Mucci isn't complaining. He's just glad to have the space to do it.
Mucci owns Wolfpack Boxing Club, which moved into a 6,000-square-foot gym on Gregg Street in Scott Township at the end of December. Previously, the organization was based in Bridgeville, where it shared a space with a weightlifting club and kettlebell club.
“We'd be bumping into weightlifters, (and) we'd be bumping into kettlebell people,” Mucci said. “It was a hassle.”
The club's new location was built in the 1800s and once housed a munitions factory. Superior Steel was another prior tenant. Mucci kept the old brick on the far wall of the gym because he thought it gave the gym a “vintage” look.
Posters on the wall from famous fights, such as the Ali-Frazier “Thrilla in Manila,” add to that atmosphere.
“I walked in and was like, ‘This is great, this is awesome,'” said client David DiGioia, 43, of Mt. Lebanon. “The raw brick — we've got everything going. It's a gym. It's something you'd see in ‘Rocky.'”
While the gym has an old-school atmosphere, Mucci operates the business with a more new-school mentality.
Wolfpack Boxing, which Mucci took over in January 2012 from former Steeler Craig Wolfley, accepts people for classes regardless of age or gender. Mucci said his clients range in age from 8 to 61 years old, and 30 percent are women.
“My overall desire in taking over this business is to provide an opportunity for anyone and everyone to have the experience of boxing without having to worry about getting a black eye or coming in and getting beat up,” said Mucci, who was a trainer at Wolfpack before taking over as owner.
“Essentially, we're offering a more structured, safe environment so that if a mother of three who's 48 years old wants to try it, she can try it and not get beat up.”
Evidence of this philosophy was found in one of the five sparring matches, where 45-year-old mother Marta Phelps squared off against 13-year-old Nathan Johnsen.
“My older son and I came in the summer, and I just stuck with it,” said Phelps, of Peters Township. “It's so much fun. It's harder than anything I've ever done, and it's a little scary sometimes, but way more fun than scary.”
Nathan joined the gym three years ago and comes to classes five times a week. He recently began fighting, with four amateur matches under his belt.
“The fights are really fun because you get to fight somebody different,” Nathan said.
Before Mucci allows clients to fight, they must advance to a certain level of training. It begins with two mandatory private introductory courses and includes three subsequent levels: beginner; intermediate, which includes light sparring; and advanced, which is for people who want to fight.
Before a client can advance to those levels, they must receive approval from Mucci and his team.
“I keep an eye on them to make sure they're fundamentally sound and able to handle it,” said Mucci, who still competes in the Masters Division.
Several of Mucci's clients fight, including Michael Bosman, who began boxing in South Africa about five years ago but didn't have his first match until he joined Mucci's gym.
“In my old gym, they only trained professional fighters, and not everyone gets to go professional,” said Bosman, 27, of Jefferson Hills. “Here, there was the opportunity to compete as an amateur, just to enjoy yourself and to give yourself something to train for. So I said why not?”
Wolfpack Boxing has more than 80 members, and Mucci said his dream is 400. He thinks he can get there, especially in his new location: It's the biggest boxing gym in the Pittsburgh area, and the only one with two 24-foot rings.
“I've had a vision for quite a while,” Mucci said. “When I came into this building, being able to have that vision come to life is just amazing. We're excited to be able to do what no one in this city or the surrounding areas has done.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.