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Club takes a swing at adding a boxing ring

Strip club king Joe Redner has applied to put a boxing ring in his health club, Xtreme Total Health and Fitness.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 22, 2002


SOHO -- Things to do on South Howard: Dine at international restaurants. Drink at chi-chi bars. Shop at trendy boutiques.

[Times photo: Stefanie Boyar]
Xtreme Total Health and Fitness owner Joe Redner dons the boxing gloves to illustrate his plans for a boxing ring at his Howard Avenue gym.
And, coming soon?

Spar at a boxing ring.

Strip club giant Joe Redner has applied to put a boxing ring in his health club, Xtreme Total Health and Fitness, on S Howard Avenue. He sees it as a fun way to expand programs and keep the club on top.

It's also cheaper than installing a pool or basketball court.

"I like boxing," Redner said. "I thought it would be good for fitness. After all, we're a total health and fitness club."

Redner has no experience sparring in a ring, but says he may try on some gloves for a round or two. A self-proclaimed pacifist, he fights most of his battles at City Hall, wrestling politicians over the city's 6-foot lap dance law.

The gym filed paperwork with the city last week to get permits to convert a vacant part of the building into the boxing area. Fire, plumbing and mechanical inspectors had some technical objections, but are working with the contractors to resolve them.

City construction officials expect to sign off on the plans without much delay. The use fits under the existing commercial and industrial zoning.

Redner said he hopes to start the $50,000 project as soon as possible. He envisions opening the ring to gym members and teens who don't have access to boxing or other recreational activities.

"I think it's a good way to involve youth and get them off the streets," he said.

The gym plans to set aside the ring for boxing and self-defense classes, and friendly bouts between members. Opening it for independent matches and spectators would require additional approval.

Xtreme already offers boxing classes to men and women several times a week. Instructor Pete Fernandez teaches basic moves and leads cardio activities. Students hit bags and practice sparring.

Redner said he expects the ring will renew interest in South Tampa's most talked about health club. The gym draws young professionals from across the region who work out to techno music in designer outfits and sneakers.

Critics consider it a major meat market geared more to fashion than exercise.

Redner opened the club at Howard and Morrison avenues in 1997. The building previously housed a laundry and uniform company, but it had fallen in disrepair. Despite initial worries about nudity at the club, some businesses owners were glad to see the property improved.

In the last year, Redner repainted the building and installed new awnings. Depending on business, Redner said he may still pursue the basketball court.

Members had mixed reactions to word about the boxing ring. The management has not announced plans for the ring, opting instead to wait until the city approves it.

Rachel Henderson, 24, of South Tamp said she might use the ring if the club offered self-defense classes for women.

Others said they would rather pump muscle on the machines than strike blows in the ring.

"I would never use it," said Mark Miller, 24, of Ybor City. "I'm really not into it."

Members like Mike Martin can't wait to test their Rocky moves. The 44-year-old martial artist from Lutz takes the boxing classes two to three times a week and looks forward to stepping into a real ring.

"There's no better way to get into shape than boxing," he said. "I've got lines on my abs from boxing all of my life."

- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or thurston@sptimes.com.

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