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Irish professional fighter opens boxing gym in Astoria, represents family tradition

Donal Ward is bringing a long family line of boxing from Ireland to Astoria. Photo courtesy of Donal Ward

Jan. 23. 2024 By Iryna Shkurhan

A former professional boxer, who’s won dozens of brawls in Ireland and New York, opened a new boxing gym in Astoria earlier this month.

Donal Ward, the owner and gym’s only trainer, wanted to bring a first of its kind boxing gym to his neighborhood. But the move to open Bua Boxing on Steinway Street was also the continuation of a family legacy that began decades ago in Ireland.

As a 5-year-old boy, Ward put on his first pair of gloves inside his father’s boxing gym in Roscommon and started training at 11 to become a professional fighter. Despite a five-year hiatus from professional boxing to play Gaelic football in his twenties, Ward found himself competing in the Madison Square Garden arena in 2019. 

“The atmosphere was unbelievable,” said Ward. “The crowd and the noise and the atmosphere is something I never experienced.”

He said that the commotion created by the 5,000 people who fill up MSG was greater than what he experienced in Dublin’s [Gaelic] football stadium which seats up to 80,000 fans. 

After getting married and moving to Astoria in 2017, Ward began to set boxing roots in New York. While he decided to give up competing after the birth of his daughter, Ward has close to 150 fights under his belt between Ireland and the United States. 

Ward teaches group classes, and offers personal training, at his newly opened gym on Steinway Street. Photo courtesy of Donal Ward

When gyms shuttered during the pandemic, he began training people outside in locations such as Astoria Park. But during the winter months he dreamed about having a physical location to train his students. 

That dream followed in the footsteps of his grandfather who also had his own boxing gym. His brother recently took over their father’s gym, and his uncle also has his own gym – all in Ireland. 

“He’s [his father] delighted that we’re keeping the boxing going,” said Ward. “It’s big in the family. We’ve been doing it forever.”

Bua means victory in Irish, and bringing his roots to the new space in Astoria was at the top of his mind. 

“My big thing is that boxing is for everyone,” said Ward. “I want to make it comfortable for people to walk in without being intimidated, whether they’re learning how to throw a punch correctly, or just coming in to get a good workout and get that good feeling afterwards.”

His classes, which cost $34 for a drop in, are mostly filled with beginners who want to learn proper boxing techniques, and others are there for a good cardio workout. He also offers personal training customized by skill level. 

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