Plastered across the walls of the main lobby in Cairo’s newest and hippest workout facility, the Maadi-based Knockout Gym, are a series of pictures and posters dedicated to Muhammad Ali.
In each display, the American iconic boxer Ali looks triumphant, his gloves raised high in the air in victory, a visual inspiration for the youthful clients that trickle in and out of the gym on a daily basis. The gym’s promotional flyer features a quote from the legendary boxer: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
And the gym’s patrons respond positively – kicking and punching their way to well-toned physical fitness.
But the real triumph here doesn’t belong to the gym’s clientele, but to the fitness center itself, which has daringly attempted to open a completely unique and unprecedented kind of workout facility in Egypt.
“This is a completely new concept here, one of the gym’s founders and owners, Ahmed Shama, told Daily News Egypt. “This kind of gym, this atmosphere – you won’t find it anywhere else.
Shama and his two partners, Ezz El Din Zahzah and Akram Basmi, opened Knockout Gym 14 months ago hoping to bring to Egypt a unique kind of workout experience.
“When I was at university in London, Shama said, “my brother convinced me to start going to a boxing gym with him. I fell in love with it, with boxing. Then, when I got back to Egypt I looked for a similar place – but there was nothing. So my friends and I decided to start one ourselves.
Shama explained that there are no true boxing gyms in Cairo and that almost all Egyptian boxing takes place at private sports clubs. But these clubs generally have poor equipment and are not appropriate as regular, recreational exercise facilities.
Knockout Gym attempts to provide patrons with a new kind of workout. According to Shama, boxing is a more interesting and interactive way to exercise.
“I get bored with normal workout routines, he said. “But boxing is different. It’s always fun and at the same time an amazing workout.
The gym offers a wide range of boxing classes in the mornings and evenings, from boxing to ‘boxercise’ to kickboxing. There are also general fitness classes and the possibility of arranging private training sessions.
The gym has also partnered with the martial arts training school, Dragon Academy, to diversify the number of classes that it offers. With its main base of operation in Mohandiseen, Dragon Academy offers three different types of classes – wellness and healing, fitness, and martial arts.
Shama boasted that the gym has been successful partially because it has been able to recruit the highest quality trainers and instructors. “These people graduated with Ph.Ds in physical education, he said. Boxercise instructors were sent to Britain to complete an official training program, and Shama personally recruited high quality instructors from around Cairo.
The head boxing instructor is Mohamed Al Baz, an Egyptian Olympian who won the bronze medal for boxing in the 2004 Athens Games. He is in charge of instructing those who want to pursue boxing mores seriously, Shama said.
Shama and his partners’ efforts to recruit the best trainers and buy the best equipment have not gone unnoticed. Many patrons have come to the gym because of its reputation for top-of-the-line facilities and instruction.
“I was taking a kickboxing class at another gym, said Ameria El-Naqeed, who has been attending a class at Knockout Gym three times a week for the last 10 months. “But they were not as well-equipped so I decided to come here instead.
Shama said that he hopes the business will continue to grow and expand. He and his partners hope to open more gyms in Cairo and, in the long run, to try to introduce boxing to other countries in the Middle East
“The biggest challenge for the future, he said, “is to take Knockout Gym a step further. We want to achieve a certain level of professionalism and efficiency that is difficult to establish. And we want to expand. We think boxing can take off, and we want to be at the head of this.