Best women-friendly boxing gym

Prime Time Boxing Club

“When was the last time you jumped rope?” asked Cary Williams-Nunez. The blonde amateur boxer looked me up and down, taking in my dirty Converse and ugly sweats.

No more than a flyweight, this petite athlete who liked to knock other women to the mat was about to give me, a plump female journalist, my first boxing lesson.

“Oh,” I answered sheepishly, “8 or 9 years old.”

“Just look in the mirror,” she said. I did and then began an embarrassing series of girly bunny hops that only looked graceful on the playground.

The second phase of training was easier. Standing on lines of tape that had worn to nothing but dull-colored glue smudges, Williams-Nunez taught me to step with my left foot, drag my right.

“Keep your chin down,” she warned. “For some reason, women have a hard time remembering to keep their chins down.”

I lowered my chin, made my hands into fists and put ’em up. I was now in the same stance I’d watched boxers instinctively take in the ring. I felt, momentarily, like one of them—a heavily earthbound version, but still, it was hard not to sneer.

“The mirror is your opponent,” Williams-Nunez said.

I went ahead and glowered.

She taught me how to throw a jab with my left hand, a short, sharp punch that started with the hand coming down like a hammer, then turned mid-punch and pushed the knuckles forward. She combined it with a right cross, a punch that took a good deal of pivoting and twisting at the waist.

My punches headed off randomly, as if I’d been aiming for a referee two feet from my imagined opponent, but Williams-Nunez decided I was ready for the punching bag.

“Finally,” she said, “you get to hit something.”

I looked at this woman who’d make a good swimsuit model and reminded myself that she loved to hit people. Hard. As a trainer and co-owner of the Prime Time Boxing Club, she was generous and good-natured. In the ring, though, she was all business. I was training with a real-live female competitive boxer.

Williams-Nunez wrapped my wrists first and then wove the fabric loosely through my fingers and over my hands. She brought out a pair of white boxing gloves. Once on, the gloves felt surprisingly good, as if I’d always secretly wanted to wear them.

Williams-Nunez stood behind a full-length punching bag.

“Now,” she said, “this is your mirror and your opponent.”

There were at least 20 things to remember: Move forward on the left foot, drag the right, jab. Keep my hands up. Keep my shoulder forward to protect my torso. Throw left, then right, and move in a circle around the bag. That left hand had to start like a hammer coming down and then turn. Lower the chin. Hit hard.

She didn’t have to remind me about that last part. Hitting hard felt natural. I let out audible breaths and put all my energy into punches that went right where they were supposed to—some of the time.

“Very good,” Williams-Nunez said, as the final bell rang.

Was I going to become an amateur boxer? Not likely. With women like Williams-Nunez out there? Please. But something about the gloves and the punching, even in the light airy gym, put me into this delicious, sepia-toned, Depression-era New York mood. Hard work and sweat and slim chances, that’s what made the sweet science of boxing so appealing.

So now, every once in a while, I catch myself in the mirror, fists raised, chin lowered, glowering.

1931 Del Paso Blvd., (916) 927-BOXR.