It took three years for co-founders Zach Vickers and Kesava Commerford to find a home for Undercard Boxing. Apparently, “two blokes” and “boxing” didn’t appeal to Sydney’s real estate agents. But a chance visit to the empty site of Oxford Street’s ex-American Apparel digs in Darlinghurst set in motion a chain of events that would lead to the gym’s opening in April.
The pair have been prominent figures in Australia’s exercise community for the better part of a decade. Commerford spent the past seven years running Double Bay’s GoTo Fitness, and Vicker has been training high-profile clients including New York-based model Dougie Joseph, Victoria’s Secret model Georgia Fowler and PE Nation co-founder Pip Edwards.
After a 12-day trip to New York – a destination Vickers has dubbed “the hub of innovative, new fitness offerings that set the standard for the rest of the world” – boxing became the foundation of what would evolve into the Undercard method.
Undercard’s is a routine designed to punish. It’s part boxing, part full-body conditioning and cardio delivered in rounds of high-intensity intervals. Taking inspiration from New York’s celebrity favourite Rumble Boxing franchise, Undercard adds a new dimension to boxing-led HIIT (high-intensity interval training) by adding treadmills. But these aren’t your average treadmills – the underground classroom is lined with 18 Techno Gym Skillmill machines.
“They look a lot scarier than they actually are,” says Vickers. “The thing we like about them over the traditional treadmill is they are a free-runner, so you are the motor. They also provide resistance levels through the use of a lever, and that can give you the feeling of what it’s like to push a sled.”
Undercard offers six 36-person group classes a day, kicking off at 5.30am and continuing until 7pm, capturing commuters heading back and forth to the city via Oxford Street’s bus line. Each session begins with a detailed run-through of the six foundational punches of boxing. Trainers walk you through the moves with verbal cues and two 58-inch LED screens linked to a state-of-the-art sound system showing the correct form. Vickers says this ensures he’s offering clients technically sound boxing skills and makes sure the punch mechanics are at a professional-boxing standard.
“We don’t expect you to come in and walk out a pro boxer,” says Vickers. “Everybody learns so differently and the great thing about boxing is there’s just six foundation punches … but everyone adds their signature style to them.”
After the boxing routine comes the floor-conditioning set designed by Commerford, with scalable free weights paired with running intervals to keep heart rates high. “If you want to focus more on your strength, then you can pick up a heavier dumbbell and lift a bit slower. Or if you want to focus on endurance you pick up the lighter weight and increase the pace.”
This all happens downstairs in an orange-hued blackout room. It’s also got 18 water-filled Aqua training bags (originally used for rehab to offer a softer punching experience), plus workbenches, free weights and mirrored walls to gauge progress and technique.
On street level there are breakout spaces, a smoothie and espresso bar with eight protein-led drinks for refueling post workout, and a one-to-one boxing studio made for gruelling personal training sessions. Bespoke wooden cabinetry and parquetry floors make for a luxe change-room experience. The interior design was done by Hot Black.
There’s been a surge of boutique gyms bringing a slice of the States to Sydney, including LA’s Barry’s Bootcamp in Surry Hills and the city (another treadmill workout experience). There’s also Woollahra’s New York-inspired Bodylove Pilates, which opened earlier this year.
82 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst
Mon to Thu 5am–8.30pm
Sat & Sun 7am–11.30am
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on May 23, 2019. Some details may have changed since publication.