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Boxing may conjure images of the movies Rocky, Raging Bull,Million Dollar Baby or other memories of old, sweaty gyms. And there plenty right with all of it. The sport is called the “sweet science,” a moniker introduced by British sportswriter Pierce Egan more than 200 years ago. Its participants, Egan wrote, needed to be “tough, forward-thinking and tactical.”

While still pertinent qualities, fitness boxing doesn’t have to involve participants entering a ring or dingy, stinky gyms. Geared toward children, adults and seniors, fitness boxing is a complete physical fitness workout done with a personal trainer or group classes, and usually in modern facilities.

As an aerobic exercise, boxing increases a practitioner’s heart rate, which lowers their risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Fitness boxing, which can include punching at the air or on bags, burns calories, strengthens bones and improves endurance. Like other aerobic exercises, it also increases endorphin levels, the body natural way of improving mood.

Billy Lyell and his wife, Jess, like other boxing instructors and trainers in Southwest Florida gyms, focus on boxing fundamentals.

“The difference in our gym is that I really teach you how to box,” says Billy Lyell, who with Jess co-founded The Sweet Science in Naples. “How do you stand? How do you hold your hands? How do you move your feet? It’s your basic Boxing 101.”

When incorporating the use of varied equipment—heavy bag to aqua bag, speed bag to hand pads—Lyell, 37, knows of what he speaks and teaches. Now retired, he had 36 professional bouts and more than 70 amateur bouts, and fought for two world titles.

“People have different goals,” he says. “Some people come in just want to get in shape and use boxing as the vehicle. I have women who have never watched boxing a day in their life and they want the workout. But I also have guys who grew up watching boxing and they’re interested in learning the technique.”

At the SJC Boxing Gym in Fort Myers, training is geared toward the full spectrum of boxing enthusiasts, professionals to youth and as an individual or in group classes.

The gym’s reputation is built on the lifelong experience of Steven J. Canton. His 60-plus-year boxing legend includes tenures as a pro, fight manager, trainer, matchmaker, ring announcer, film consultant and author. He started the SJC Boxing Club in 1992.

“SJC Boxing loves the old fighters, the fighters who fought for little money and the love of the sport,” Canton says. “SJC boxers not only love the sport but are well trained and conditioned to fight like the old-time fighters.”

With respect for history as its guide, SJC Boxing also invites middle and high school students to learn about the sport and join in mentoring and training during daily early afternoon sessions. Professionals from business and sport provide inspirational talks, and a free lunch is offered.

The Lyells, instructors at SJC Boxing and non-boxing-specific businesses including Fyzical Therapy and Balance Center in Bonita Springs, also offer a workout called Rock Steady. It requires instructors to have specific certifications.

In addition to other exercises, Rock Steady offers boxing training to people with Parkinson’s disease. The classes are designed to improve the deterioration of balance, motor skills and sensory functions.

“It’s phenomenal, what it does,” Lyell says. “It’s almost like it rewires their brains. What I learned from boxing is that anything is possible.”

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