WE NOT ME: Middleton's Sonny's Boxing and Fitness emphasizes team first mentality

·5 min read

Jul. 4—From the outside looking in, boxing may appear to be one of the most individually focused sports there is.

On many levels, that may be true — mano-a-mano sparring in a rope-lined ring for up to 12 rounds at the highest level. But anyone heavily versed in the pastime would tell you that the team surrounding the fighter is just as important.

Just ask lifelong boxer Danny Olivar. The 40-year-old Lynnfield resident opened his own gym in Middleton in 2020, and one of the first things he aimed to establish was that team-first mentality inside and outside the ring.

He even implemented a "We Not Me" slogan that's become a part of his journey and a staple in his new gym.

"I always think everything's about the team," said Olivar, who's been involved with boxing since he was five years old. "Even though boxing is a big individual sport, I always believed in everyone around them contributing. It's almost like raising a kid, especially with these young guys out there. I think it takes a village."

Olivar's gym, which he's dubbed "Sonny's Boxing and Fitness" after his 2-year-old son of the same name, has it all: A variety of punching bags, gloves and headgear, plenty of other training equipment and of course, a beautiful full sized ring. The outer walls of the establishment are adorned with tasteful boxing memorabilia including posters, photos, trophies and plaques.

Think classic, old school boxing gym with an updated modern touch.

"It's one of the nicest gyms I've ever been in," said former professional heavyweight Bruce Perry, a Danvers resident who frequents the facility.

More important than its looks, however, is the gym's dedicated staff and overall family oriented atmosphere.

Between the owner, Olivar, and his team that includes his good friend Mark O'Connell, 19-year-old Shea Wilcox (a soon-to-be professional), Larry Kootz, Gene Beraldi and Joe Lake, there's no shortage of knowledge and expertise inside the Middleton training haven.

In building his staff and welcoming individuals to either try their hand at the sport for the first time, hone their budding craft or simply get in a fulfilling — and perhaps exhausting — workout, Olivar intended to create an environment that caters to people of all ages, backgrounds and aspirations.

"I wanted to give something back to the sport to be honest with you," explained Olivar. "Everybody wants to be a fighter and I think it's more than just actually boxing. I think everybody fights in some aspect of life and I think that boxing is very symbolic to life itself.

"Whether they're struggling with one thing or another, I think (boxing) is a good outlet for people, and I think if we can give them that half hour or hour of getting away from the world by letting out their aggression on the mitts or the heavy bag, I think that's good."

Whatever your goal with boxing may be, Sonny's has an option for you. Whether it's their adult or youth group classes taught by Beraldi, whom Olivar says "brings a whole other energy to the gym and it's like everybody did a shot of caffeine when he comes in", or a more individually focused one-on-one training session, there's something for everybody — from five years old and up.

"That's the age I started so I figured nobody's gonna get a leg up on me," joked Olivar. "Although, my son's been hitting the heavy bag already but that's what happens when you grow up in a boxing gym I guess."

Olivar has also helped train a number of high level boxers including an NCAA title winning female from Notre Dame and a pair of New England Golden Gloves champions. The aforementioned Lake has also trained successful professionals throughout his illustrious career and adds another dimension to the gym.

"He actually trained my best friend Dana Rosenblatt, who won the world title," said Olivar. "He just started coming here a couple of months ago in the morning doing his own thing; I have the utmost respect for Joe. If anybody can come in here and help me become better at what I do, it's him. I mean, he's trained four world champions. My ego's not big enough; come in and help. He's obviously been around the sport a lot longer than me and he's a great asset to the gym."

Sonny's is still a relatively new facility, and Olivar plans to continue to do everything he can to make it the best and most welcoming place to train in the area. The sport of boxing is unquestionably making a serious comeback in recent years, and Olivar feels that if he can aid in that growth while helping people accomplish their goals, then he's doing his job.

"I think (boxing) fell off when UFC kind of blew up, but I think people appreciate boxing more now because they realize how hard it is," said Olivar. "I think everyone wants to be able to defend themselves at the end of the day, but moreso it's about the workout. Studies have shown that you're burning 500 calories in a half-hour session; where else are you going to do that?" — Sonny's Boxing and Fitness is located at 206S Main Street in Middleton, MA and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am until 8 pm. To learn more visit sonnysboxingandfitness.com and check them out on Instagram (Sonnysboxingandfitness).

Contact Nick Giannino at NGiannino@Salemnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickGiannino_SN.

Contact Nick Giannino at NGiannino@Salemnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickGiannino_SN.