Behind second-story windows painted "EAT SLEEP FIGHT REPEAT," McConnell's Boxing Academy on Northeast Broadway looks like it may as well have been plucked directly from one of those movies about a former champ's efforts to train the next generation of fighters.
But if you squint hard, a few differences appear: the pink pair of loaner boxing gloves, say. Or the framed poster near the entrance advertising a match between Wonder Woman and Supergirl. Or, one recent weekday afternoon, the purely female clientele limbering up before class, though owner Molly "Fearless" McConnell says males actually comprise a slight majority of the gym's membership.
"It's about 60-40 men," she laughs. "The women just show up on time."
According to McConnell, that's about the only notable difference between the sexes. In the ring, "everybody spars together." The décor is wholly in keeping with her gym's central philosophy of open-armed acceptance.
"If you've never done combat sports," McConnell says, "coming into a boxing gym can be really intimidating—especially for women but for men, too. A lot of gyms have, for lack of a better word, a very bro-y 'tude, and people get turned off by the atmosphere. Once we get people in the door, they see right away that we have a very welcoming, super-diverse group of people here—doctors, nurses, teachers, a ton of professionals."
While the gym also has a boxing fitness program for those with no desire to fight, McConnell is clearly most passionate about the dozen or so fighters hand-picked for MBA's amateur competition team, which she trains in a style she calls "aggressive counterpunching." Though she's also worked with UFC competitors, McConnell's is one of the few gyms in Portland to keep a tight focus on boxing and boxing only.
"I have no interest in wrestling and jiujitsu," she says. "I'm an expert in one thing with a deep knowledge base. A bunch of gyms sell the fact that they teach this, that and the other thing, but they don't have any individual expertise."
McConnell herself never laced up a pair of gloves until, looking for a new fitness regimen after college, she wandered into a gym that happened to offer women's boxing classes. Six months later, at the age of 24, she had her first fight. Six years later, after a long stint atop the amateur rankings, she turned pro, eventually retiring with a pair of junior welterweight world championship belts. "I feel like I didn't choose boxing, it chose me," she says, "and I think that happens to a lot of people. They come in, try it and fall in love with it. And sometimes, it really is like falling in love. Boxing isn't for everyone, but when it is, it really is."
This Year, More Than Ever, It's Important to Stop and Take Note of Everything That Makes Portland What It Is
Here are the Winners of the Best of Portland Readers' Poll 2017
Here are the Things WW Declared "The Best" in the Last 12 Months
Inside Mall 205, You'll Find Oregon's Last Remaining Magic Shop
Portland's Raging Grannies Have Been Protesting Since the 1960s, And You Do Not Want to Mess With Them
A Vancouver Man Bought Naked Falls Swimming Hole, So He Could Re-Open It to the Public
Rodney Scott Puts On Portland's Greatest Indie Firework Show
Cabel Sasser Found a McDonalds Mural That Led Him to Uncover a Secret Collection of Art
Two College Students Started An Organization to Provide Bras and Underwear to Homeless Women
Jim Hipsher Is Portland's Greatest Live Book of Poetry
These Two Women Make Showing Up for Jury Duty A Lot Less Terrible
On Northeast Broadway, You Can Learn Boxing From Two-Time World Champ Molly "Fearless" McConnell
Portland Urban Golf Makes the Entire Changing City Its Ever-Evolving Personal Golf Course
Did You Know You Can Play a 9-Hole Portland-Themed Mini-Golf Course?
Seven Years Ago, New Trail Blazer Caleb Swanigan Was 360 Pounds and Living in Homeless Shelters
Each Week, a Group Goes to Laurelhurst Park to Throw Axes Through the Air—And They're Really Good
Portland Now Has a Nonprofit That Gives Kids Access to Free Pinball
Marathon Taverna Hosts Portland's Best Late-Night Raffle, Giving Away T-Shirts and 100-Level Blazers Tickets
The City of Portland Made a Sign Reading "Heartbreak Dead Ahead"
There's a Secret, Profit-Free Bookstore "Forest" on Division Street
You Can Get a Pre-Addressed Letter to Trump from Paymaster Lounge's Vending Machine
A Local Business Totally Trolled Willamette Week—And It Was Awesome
The ACLU of Oregon Has Emerged as Portland's Most Consistent Free-Speech Fundamentalists
Division Street's Oregon Theater Is Portland's Greatest NSFW Twitter Account
There's a Library in Vancouver Full of Hundreds of Books That Have Never Been Published, And Never Will Be
Alberta Street's American Legion Post 134 Went Rogue—Inviting Homeless In and Hosting LGBTQ Nights
Beaverton's Spectra Gymnastics Provides Play Spaces for Kids on the Autism Spectrum
There's a Hidden, Underground Sculpture Inside the Standard Insurance Center in Downtown Portland
One of the Oldest Retail Businesses in the City is a 127-Year-Old Woman-Owned Costume Shop—Now, It's in Danger of Closing
In the Portland Area's Wealthiest Neighborhood Lies a Hidden, Public Scottish Garden As Large as the Japanese Garden
The Zymoglyphic Museum is a Self-Contained World of Rogue Taxidermy and Steampunk
Every Sunday, Portland Hosts a Real-Life "Fast and the Furious"
Portland's Best Daycaction is a Cheap Flight to Pendleton, Where the Cowboys Still Walk The Streets
Oregon City's Tim Kovar Is one of the Nation's Foremost Tree-Climbing Experts
Hero Punk Stole the Satyricon Sign and Sold it to VooDoo Doughnut Owner in Exchange for Lifetime Doughnuts
High School Junior Won a Major Science Competition in the World By Investigating Where Portland's Fish Went
Who Do You Call When Your Goat Is Throwing Up? Portland's Go-To Goat Doctor, Of Course
Meet the Portland Poodle Who Dresses Better Than You
Every Saturday, A Train Runs Through Oaks Bottom, Making Birdwatching Actually Fun
Right Now, Three Dogs Living at a Southeast Portland Dispensary Are High on CBD Dog Treats
Feeling Sad Lately? Snuggle Up to One of Portland's Therapy Bunnies
Pet Barn Will Watch Your Boa Constrictor While You're Out of Town, But Not Your Dog
In the '90s, Two Portland Teenagers Aired Old WWF Matches. Now, They Have a Treasure Trove of Wrestling Archives
Portland Science Rapper Coma Niddy Has the Best Rhymes About Black Holes You've Ever Heard
There is a Secret Willamette River Bridge Most Portlanders Have Forgotten Exists
Hero Portland Man Built an 8-Foot Tall Multnomah Falls Out of LEGOs
There's An Alley in North Portland Where Robots Will Call Out To You
Daddy Mojo's Has the Finest Gallery of Signed Celebrity Memorabilia of Any Bar in Portland
Portland's Black Book Guitars Owner Has Tracked Down Guitars from Elliot Smith and Kurt Cobain
Thank God for the Los Cactus Food Cart, Which, For 14 Years Has Fed Junkyard Customers for Cheap
Two Portlanders Created a Willy Wonka-Style Edible Forest Near Milwaukie
Portland's Best Bagelmaker Was Saved By Someone in Line at WinCo—Now, He's Repaying Strangers' Kindness
You and Your Friends Can Drink for Free for an Hour on Your Birthday at This Portland Bar
The Portland-Area Finally Has Hong Kong-Style Ice Cream Bubble Waffles
Yes, There Is a Place in Portland Where You Can Try Witches' Brews and Heal Yourself with a Fire Pit
Portland's Best Fritters Come From Donut Queen on 58th and East Burnside
When a Pro-Trump Rally Came to Portland, a Good Samaritan Helped Calm the Tension By Handing Out Free Weed
If You Haven't Noticed Yet, the Trail Blazers Twitter Account is on Fire
The New Market of Choice On Belmont Has The Very Best Grocery Store Beer Selections We've Ever Seen
Yes, There a Secret Underground Bowling Alley in the Center of Portland
When Portland Saw Snowstorms, the National Weather Service Twitter Became Our 24/7 Therapist