BOXE JUMPS TO THE FIGHT KLUB BEAT
Troy Dureh’s high-powered boxing raves drove the UK brand to rock star popularity and gave rise to BOXE boutiques.
Raised by his grandparents in London’s East End, FIGHT KLUB® CEO & Founder Troy Dureh was a sports enthusiast from a young age. Swimming was his sport of choice, and he consistently impressed the crowds by pushing his 5’7” frame to win after win. He went from certified lifeguard to personal and group trainer with ease and integrated boxing into his classes, quickly earning a reputation for fun, accessible, rhythm-driven workouts with a high-octane energy exchange between participants and their “fitness MC.” And because there was no certification for kickboxing in fitness at the time, 18-year-old Troy invented his own program. Heavily influenced by the Fight Club film and his own “relentless clubbing,” he added a freestanding punching bag to his high-intensity urban workout, hounded reputed DJs to spin that underground beat, and FIGHT KLUB spread like wildfire.
When did you know you really had something distinctive?
By 2009, I was presenting at international events and UK conventions and everywhere it went, it really excited people. Queuing up for a FIGHT KLUB was like going to a Star Wars movie – around the block, into the building, up the stairs and to the stage, people in deck chairs with and cups of tea, waiting for the class. I decided to stop full-time work at Gym Box where I was overseeing the group exercise product and invest some serious time [in the brand]. I toured the UK with a van and a big batch of bags and sold out all but two of 88 dates.
What obstacles did you encounter when starting out?
We had a great 2012, training 727 instructors in FIGHT KLUB, but in year two, only a small percentage renewed because fitness centers didn’t want to invest in the kits. First, we moved towards licensing in locations, and stopped training instructors unless they were part of a centre buying a licensed package. We got through that by solving another problem: we needed a branded punch bag because bags with spring coils that bounced around or had tubes at the base were not meant for four-person synchronized team punching and kicking. We customized a bag robust enough for that. Then we licensed those instructors who were tired of fighting for a spot on gym schedules and rented space in schools, church halls and community centres instead.
How did COVID affect your business?
Our priority was instructor survival, so we allowed them to piggyback on our digital platform, which was built to house an infinite number of sites with payment gateways and unlimited on-demand storage. We held workshops on streaming and provided infrastructure and logistical support. Some instructors buddied up, shared links and did guest appearances on each other’s channels. More than 5000 people signed up for our platform during lockdown and lots of our instructors still have a strong digital following post pandemic. Our free content had over 1.5million views, and some of our free livestreams had over 11k people tuning in.
Who is the typical FIGHT KLUB customer?
There is none, really. We’re probably one of the most diverse brands… The other day we had four generations from one family in our class! We attract a lot of people who couldn’t think of anything worse than partying all night, but they feel energized by what we do. We also get quite a young demographic who are bored with the gym. Diversity and inclusion come with the fun-for-all territory. We’ve even got a punch bag that’s been designed for wheelchair users. We try to be mindful and ensure that everyone can participate to the best their ability.
Describe the typical FIGHT KLUB class.
It begins with the instructor standing at front, so everyone has a visual reference, and we go through the basic jab, cross hook, uppercut, body shot, knee, front kick, sidekick, etc. before we do anything else. Then people turn to the bag and work in fours while the instructor floats around. We do combinations on the right and the left with intervals in between – a lot of drum and bass music and everybody counting down reps together – and then we finish off with a challenge or focus on a specific technique or do something purely fun.
What made you decide to enter the boutique space at this time?
I initially felt we had gone too far as a licencing brand and training provider for a boutique to work. But in 2018, when Sweaty Betty invited us to run a whole day of classes at the fitness studio in their flagship store in Soho, we put up Thumping Thursdays with FIGHT KLUB and the response was amazing. That gave me confidence that a four walls model could work. Having our own spaces means we can take things to the next level, and it feels like the right time to spread our wings.
What distinguishes BOXE boutiques from the competition?
Apart from FIGHT KLUB, I think it’s our approach to community. For example, every Friday for 12 months, we’ll be teaching boxing and soft skills to young people who are on the cusp of leaving foster care. Our youth workshops will include guest speakers, entrepreneurs, and visits from our partners, and we plan to gift or partially fund franchises for any superstars who work hard and have what it takes to succeed. We’ll also open our doors for free on Fridays to people who are out of work or on universal credit. We’re inviting local businesses into the studio for team building and running outreach sessions to improve mental health in the workplace. Building a community and being of service to the community you operate in are two distinct things, in my opinion, and serving the community is in our DNA.
What’s in store for FIGHT KLUB and BOXE franchises?
The plan is to launch more FIGHT KLUB sites across the UK and hopefully enter the US market in mid-2022. We’ll also launch more partnerships spaces with Everyone Active,franchise our studio product and continuing to push the boundaries with our FIGHT KLUB Experience ‘Super Events’. We have not grown in what many would consider traditional, but from my point of view it’s a natural pathway that grew organically. That’s why I’d like to personally thank all our customers, instructors, and partners for making FIGHT KLUB what it is today.