Breaking News
More () »

Veteran-owned boxing gym opens in Downtown Jacksonville, hopes to revitalize area

The owner, an Army veteran, and one of the instructors, a Purple Heart recipient, say boxing can heal.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — From corporate to K-O, one local man is taking his passion for boxing up a notch. When the only boxing gym in the Urban Core closed, Ellis McGhee saw it as an opportunity.

He wanted to invest in an area of Jacksonville that's in need of revitalization: the Rail Yard District.

McGhee works his corporate job during the day. In the early morning and evenings, he's boxing and teaching others at Duval Boxing and Fitness Club. His own gym.

"It's about discipline, focus, dedication (and) having that true grit of survival," said McGhee. He was 300 pounds when he first started boxing about 20 years ago.

He says it started when his 9 to 5 job brought in Muay Thai classes for employees. He joined in and fell in love with it and eventually transitioned into boxing. 

This turned into him coaching at another gym. When that gym closed in early 2022, there was a hole in the market and no gyms in the urban core area.

"You're not going to come in here and work out. You're going to come in here and train. It's just a different mindset I want a person to have when they come into my gym."

For McGhee, boxing is as much about the mental aspect as it is physical.

"A lot of people that are coming in are also dealing with other issues, too," McGhee said. "Trauma and things of that nature. They want to get over that. They want to put that behind them."

Keyana Guion can attest to that.

She was a combat medic in the military and was awarded a Purple Heart. She served for 8 years and was injured in a rocket attack in 2010. 

"One thing about movement, it helps move those traumatic experiences like those sensations out of the body," she said.

She's also the yoga instructor for the gym and is trained in trauma-informed yoga.

"My practice is actually what helped me make it through the military when I was injured overseas," Guion said. "From the fitness side, it is my recovery. It is my opportunity to strengthen in ways I typically wouldn't be able to."

The gym opened in June. They have ample parking in a fenced lot. You can buy a membership or pay $20 a class and drop in. 

Before You Leave, Check This Out