LEWISTON — Glenn Cugno’s stable of pugilists now see the light of day, breathe fresh air through open windows and enjoy serene views of the Androscoggin River during sparring sessions.

His pugnacious boxers no longer endure the sweaty, cement walls and damp flooring that appeared when searing, summer heat turned the dank basement of the Lewiston Memorial Armory into a blast furnace, generating repugnant odors that would make even the toughest fighter wince in disgust.

Glenn Cugno talks with fighter Cole Vanwickler, left, at Cugno Boxing in Lewiston in late April. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

There is now more room to groove to the sounds of a heavy bag being pummeled into oblivion at Cugno Boxing Promotions’ new digs in a building at 134 Main Street in Lewiston.

“The gym in the Armory got closed down because of COVID-19, and (the Armory) decided to put a ventilation system in … and then they shut the whole basement down and they going to redo the whole place,” Cugno said. “I think they said they have a two-year project redoing that place so they are not letting anything go on downstairs.”

Cugno Boxing moved into its new location in July 2020, on the second floor above Pedro O’Hara’s restaurant, before it closed in May 2021, and found room to grow and an environment more aesthetically pleasing than the Lewiston Armory basement. A friend of his, who owns the building, offered him the second floor — and Cugno’s crew immediately set up shop.

“It holds a lot more people,” he said. “The gym has grown since we moved because it is just way bigger. It is open, a lot of windows, a lot of ventilation. Good views because it is a nicer location. It was so humid in the other gym in the summer, it would fog up the mirrors. The floor would be slippery. Everything would be sweating. It is a concrete building. You know how it is. That gym has been there for over 40 years.

Advertisement

“I love that old gym because it’s got that old gym feel to it. It is like being in a ‘Rocky’ movie or something. Personally, I like the space I have now. It is more clean. It is more modern than that place. We have a weight room in there now. I have two boxing rings up there. I have a matted area for exercises. I have like 10 heavy bags hanging. It is so big I can have the guys do wind sprints in there. ” 

Membership has grown, too, increasing from 15 to 25 devoted fighters to 61 registered members. 

“Not all want to be fighters,” he said. “Some of them are in there just to get in shape. Some of them are in their to socialize, you know what I mean? We all have a good time in there.

Crispin Kamundala trains at Cugno Boxing in Lewiston in late April. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“Ninety percent of the time — and once they are getting in shape — they start doing the workout and they want to fight,” Cugno said. “I have had people come in and never thought they would fight ever, and they fought.”

BOXERS WEIGH IN

Cugno’s eldest members still feel a strong allegiance to the Armory gym and enjoy waxing nostalgia about its history. The younger crowd revels in the new, well-lit facility with its open spaces and views of the river.

Advertisement

Boxer Kam Arnold, who fights at 135 pounds, has been with Cugno boxing for three or four years. He said the move to Maine Street is also good for the community.

“I love it (here), man,” Arnold said. “I love the views. I love seeing the water. (The new gym) gets everybody rolling in here. The people of the city see everybody rolling in here. The kids and talent we have here are amazing. 

“It smells a bit different (here). I know back in the old gym — my first time ever going down there, and I unlocked the door and (I thought) this is what the smell of failed dreams is. Failed dreams go to die. I love that old-school kind of gym, but it is very gray (and) dark. It is almost nightmarish.”

Glenn Cugno, left, talks with fighter Cole Vanwickler of South China in late April at Cugno Boxing in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

He added that the bathrooms in Armory basement are “different.”

“You don’t want to get caught down there by yourself,” Arnold said with a wide smile.

Arnold added that Cugno boxing should try keep the Armory gym open for team sparring and private sessions.

Advertisement

“I like the feel down (at the Armory gym),” he said, “but I love this (new place). The smell is great and cleaner air.”

Junior welterweight Brandon Berry of West Forks looks at Cugno’s roomy new base of operations as an improvement.

“For the old guys who have been in the old gym for years and years, obviously it is bittersweet,” Berry said. “Nothing can replace the old gym (and) obviously the smell of the old gym. All the old memories were made there.

“But this is obviously an upgrade. Way more room — especially for the kids, and two (boxing) rings is awesome. It was time and I am happy for Glenn. He has such a big program that is always growing.”

Crispin Kamundala, right, spars with Cole Vanwickler at Cugno Boxing in Lewiston in late April. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Berry said if Cugno wanted to returned to the rehabbed Armory basement, that is his choice, but if it was Berry’s decision, he would remain in the new building.

Crispin Kamundala, a Lewiston High School graduate and junior on the University of Maine track and field team who recently won his fight against Josh Melvin at the Lewiston Armory, said the new gym works for him.

Advertisement

“This one is nice and has a lot of space,” he said. “(The Armory) is so small. I like it here.”

When Gordon Berry, Brandon’s brother, was first introduced to the Armory gym, he felt like he was entering the set of a “Rocky” movie and was taken by the smells of the old heavy bags and other rich aromas.

“What’s really awesome to see is how many kids are in here,”  Gordon said. “You know what, I have a lot of emotional attachment to the old gym because that’s where I started, but I think this is a better location. It is bigger. There is air. 

Alex Theriault, 12, of Greene wraps his hands at Cugno Boxing in late April in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“We’ve got more equipment in here and fit more people in it. So this is definitely an improvement.”

Kate Sawyer has spent the past 10 years staying in shape at Cugno’s gym.

But does she miss the stark Armory basement?

Advertisement

“No, not even the musty smell,” the Edward Little High School graduate said. But she added that she does miss one an old speed bag at the Armory.

Alex Theriault, 12, of Greene, said the Armory pales in comparison to Cugno’s new abode.

“There is a lot more space, people, (workout) bags and a lot more area to do things,” Theriault said. 

Emma Jones of Auburn wraps her hands at Cugno Boxing in Lewiston in late April. Jones is a senior at the Franklin School. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Dylan Crockett, 14, of Windham has been boxing for Cugno for the past four years.

“There is a lot more things you can do here,” Crockett said. “But this gym is way better than anywhere. The last gym didn’t have any windows.”

“It is way nice than the other gym — way bigger,” 18-year-old Emma Jones, who has fought in different weights classes, said. “You would work out and there were no windows in the place and the whole room would steam up and it was so gross.

Advertisement

“But I love the old history of the old gym. My dad used to fight there; my uncle used to fight there. Joey Gamache did. So it felt cool training there. But this gym is a 100 times better.”

Cugno said all his veteran boxers will always cherish the memories of the Armory gym, but for now, there is no going back.

“If I was to go back to the Armory, it would have to be a lot bigger,” Cugno said. “I could not go back from where I am at now … because I outgrew it. It is just too small.

“That (Armory) gym served a good purpose. We had a three-time world champion (Gamache) come out of there. It did the trick.” 

A picture of legendary Lewiston boxer Joey Gamache hangs on the wall at Cugno Boxing in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: