boxer elite living africaIn his red leather boxing gloves, knees bent as he shows one of his poses during training, Adelino da Costa talks about Punch Fitness Gym, as music from a band in Guinea Bissau

All this is happening at his gym, on Madison Avenue, the haute street for the haute people. The gym is next to a store that sells $20,000 chinchilla coats

The gym was established in 2007, by da Costa who was born in Guinea Bissau, and a former Portuguese national kickboxing champion, now based in the Upper West Side. He is 5-foot-9, 160-pound sculptured and tattooed body, showing truly fit physique.

Born on the island of Jeta, in Guinea Bissau and later lived in Portugal with his parents where he became a professional boxing champion. The next plan, was to move to New York to train in this field.

“I decided to challenge myself, and moved to New York, to make a boxing career but it was too late for me at my age of 27. One needs to enter the industry at a very young age. so I decided to look for a path of my own and I created Punch Fitness Centre, a gym that combines teachings from international, professional MMA fighters offering a unique boxing, kickboxing and training experience. I found work as a dishwasher in a restaurant while training at the legendary Gleason’s Gym, an establishment frequented by such boxers as Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather. For three to four years, my life rhythm was: restaurant, washing dishes, gym, training, working, training. My aim was to raise money for the gym business I wanted to start.” 

The work at the restaurant paid off and he rented a small room of 150 square feet, a basement that was previously used to store junk and converted it into Punch Fitness Centre gym.

“Even the owners of this basement were convinced that such a lousy place wouldn’t bring in any profit, and therefore agreed to reduce the rent to a minimum,” he explains. “When the contract was signed, I went in there and said to myself, ‘Well, it’s not the 3,000 square feet that everyone seems to think is necessary to open a gym; it’s only 150 square feet. My gym won’t be a big one, but, if I work 14 hour days and manage to make rent, I could eventually even earn some money for myself.’”

The Madison Avenue location later led to other centres in other well established neighbourhoods such as The Mark Hotel; Greenwich, Connecticut; the Upper West Side, across from Central Park, the Hamptons and in Harlem.

“When it comes to starting a business, location is  key. A business’s location determines its customer base, drives its its marketing strategy  and also affect its financials. This is an excellent location and strategic for the customers I target,” da Costa comments. “I have three important factors to consider when to choose the location. The first is how my space can meet my customer’s needs. Second, the freedom to set my own rules as it is my own business and thirdly, access to exposure.”

A one hour session may consist of combination of  planks, squats, resistance bands, shadow boxing, pad work, sprinting, sparring (with bags or a trainer), and a go on the Jacobs Ladder or Curve treadmill.

All his trainers are handpicked trainers from West Africa, Portugal, and Brazil.

Besides lawyers, lawyers, hedge fund managers, models, celebrities and superstars, once one can spot some of the world’s best boxers training such as Marcelo Garcia who was trained by da Costa for the for the South Korean national championship in mixed martial arts.

“Today, people are more informed about preventative health and wellness. This is inclusive of healthy eating, weight loss, nutrition, wellness tourism, fitness mind and body, the spa industry, beauty, vitamins and natural products,” he explains. “My philosophy is: unity, struggle and progress; whereby you get guidance on uniting your mind and spirit, then your spirit takes over the struggle and you progress, and you evolve and strengthen your mind, body and soul. Once you enable the client to feel confident, then he or she can change. You change the inside first, then you work on technique.

The society as a whole has show a growing need for self care and well being products and services which has led to a large community that grows larger due to increased social networking capabilities. 

The fitness industry has various challenges; lack of strict regulation means that any individual can refer to him or herself as a trainer.

“People are also obsessed with achieving six packs abs; manufacturers spend to much time and energy to reinvent old equipment and to many personal trainers let clients dictate the course of their program,” he expounds. “ Like other entrepreneurs I face various challenges in today’s competitive business world, I have managed to mitigate some issues such as hiring employees. We look for the best trainer with best spirit to do this job. I have also learnt to delegate when I can’t take any more work. That is ow you grow as it also enables you to pursue other business requirements.”

Raising through his struggles to succeed as an expert in the world of fitness, he founded the 501(c)(3) charity, Punch Out Poverty, whose ultimate mission is to aid in the sustainable development and preservation of individual communities (or "TABANKA" as they are called) in Guinea-Bissau. 

“I want to also return home and implement my knowledge on fauna and flora through educational eco walks fused with exercises and healthy organic cuisine from onsite gardens. My country Guinea Bissau has more than 88 beautiful, unexplored and rarely visited islands. My intention is to design an exclusive program ‘The retreat wellness Island’ in one of the Archipelago of Bijagos in Guinea-Bissau based on demand for personalized unique vacations, focus on self discovery involving mindfulness and deep spiritual exploration. I have to always give back to the the my land.”

Maryanne Maina