Bare Knuckle Murphy’s Boxing Gym owner in fight of her life, to save her business

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‘Save our Gym” Fundraising site aims to raise $50,000 by March 12.
Linda Murphy is ready to save the Lake Avenue boxing gym she loves.

MANCHESTER, NH – Ten years ago Linda Murphy moved her boxing gym into an old abandoned armory on Lake Avenue. She and her now ex-husband sunk everything they owned into the project, taking out a home equity loan to renovate the neglected landmark.

Now, she’s fighting to remain in the building that is home to Murphy’s Bare Knuckle Fisticuffs, due to extenuating circumstances stemming from the couple’s 2011 divorce. Murphy has until March 12 to turn things around and raise the $50,000 needed to settle up with her husband and remain at the Lake Avenue site, which otherwise will be listed for sale.

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 10.58.03 AMGo to Murphy’s Bare Knuckle Fisticuffs ‘Donation for Services’ Page or Donate directly here via Crowdrise

 Lake Avenue location was a perfect fit

After 25 years in business at a few other locations around the city, Murphy says they finally found the perfect fit – a scrappy, uplifting neighborhood where the everyday fight is real, a versatile space that reflected everything Murphy, a lifelong boxing coach, believed about what a community gym could be.

“We could make as much noise as we wanted without bothering other tenants, which is why we decided to leave our last location, at Langer Place – which we loved,” she says.

Bareknuckles Murphy's Gym, 163 Lake Avenue.
Bare Knuckle Murphy’s Boxing Gym, 163 Lake Avenue.

Opening Bare Knuckle Murphy’s Fisticuffs boxing gym on Lake Avenue, with its 20-foot-high ceilings, brick interior and wood floors, was a dream come true, says Murphy. It felt right, and the community has continued to show up.

The gym offers USBA boxer training, martial arts and kickboxing instruction, as well as the newest addition, Go Ninja classes, which her two daughters have developed. Heather, 28, attended circus arts school, and Shaunna, 25, earned a degree in nutrition from UNH. The innovative program continues to draw hundreds of students – male and female, young and old – introducing them to a diverse set of skills designed to build strength and esteem.

The gym has established itself as a place of learning and excellence, most recently earning two New Hampshire Magazine “Best of 2014” accolades based on public voting.

Although business is thriving, she’s up against the ropes due to extenuating circumstances stemming from her divorce in 2011.

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As part of the divorce settlement Murphy was supposed to sell the River Road home she and her ex-husband shared by the end of November 2014.

But it needed work, and she had her hands full with repairs while continuing to manage her business full time.

“It’s an adorable bungalow from 1926, and has a lot of charm, but it was a bad time of year to sell a home, with the holidays and the snow storms,” says Murphy.

Her ex-husband wants his name off the property, and is ready to move on, she says.

Three years ago she went to Home Help NH, but at that time, with the real estate market reeling, she didn’t qualify for a loan on her own. Murphy hoped that with a little more time the market would begin to even out. Her home, valued at $255,000 10 years ago, is listed for just $159,900.

But between the $100,000 drop in real estate value on their family home and the $225,000 home equity loan they took for the business in 2005, she’s been unable to get another loan in her name only.

Now she has until March 12 to turn things around and raise the final $50,000 needed to settle up with her ex-husband and remain at the Lake Avenue site, which otherwise will be listed for sale.

“I feel like I’m in this fight, not just for me, but for so many people who love coming in here,” says Murphy.

She was hopeful her home would have sold by now, but at this point, the only way she can stop the sale of the gym from under her is to raise the money herself.

Her support team has helped her rally by setting up an online fundraiser.

Murphy's Bare Knuckle Fisticuffs fundraising page.
Murphy’s Bare Knuckle Fisticuffs fundraising page.

By going to the Murphy’s “Save Our Gym” site people can sign up for classes, make donations to become sponsors and have their names affixed to the exterior of the building or on the gym’s website; send a kid to “Ninja” summer camp; invest in “get tough” workshops for employees; buy a front-row seat for open classes and professional sparring matches.

So far she’s had an incredible outpouring of support from many of the thousands of students who’ve found a second-home at Murphy’s Gym over the years, and have sent in testimonies, some of which are featured on the website.

Murphy said she only wishes she’d asked for help sooner. Until a few weeks ago, only those within her inner circle knew what she was really up against.

A place to build confidence, esteem

Kira Morehouse, who started bringing her 7-year-old daughter Sophia to the Go Ninja class last fall, said she knew Murphy was going through something, but only found out last week what is at stake.

Now she’s all in and ready to lend her marketing services to the cause. Morehouse says Murphy’s gym has been pivotal in building up Sophia’s esteem during what has been a challenging time in her daughter’s young life.

“I found Linda because of my involvement in TEDxAmoskeag Talks. Linda’s daughters did an aerial performance there, and then I came to find out that Linda’s sister, Donna Park, was Sophia’s music teacher at Northwest Elementary. That’s how I learned about the Go Ninja class, and I just felt like it was a sign. Sophia had been in dance class, but for many different reasons, she needed something else,” says Morehouse.

A Go Ninja aerial demonstration outside the Verizon Wireless Arena in 2014, during the Best of NH event.
Go Ninja aerial demonstration outside the Verizon Wireless Arena in 2014, during the Best of NH event.

Go Ninja combines fitness through aerial circus arts, martial arts, music, and movement as a way to build esteem while providing practical skills that include mental toughness and agility.

“I really can’t say enough about what it’s meant to her – and to me. I actually bring my 2-year-old along, and we’re all able to participate together,” says Morehouse.

At a crucial time in her daughter’s development, where esteem issues start to creep up and can be compounded by the notorious “girl clique,” she says Sophia has had the opportunity to get into the ring and learn about sparring and jabbing. She found a kind of physical and emotional strength by climbing aerial silks. She’s learning to hit the heavy bags in the basement, Rocky-style, stretching, jumping rope, trying nunchucks and mastering obstacle course runs.

As Morehouse describes the empowerment Go Ninja has provided to her daughter during a recent late-night brainstorming session, Murphy listens, and the familiar sense of maternal emotion in Morehouse’s story gets the better of her.

Go Ninja Circus Summer Camp, a unique experience at Murphy's Gym.
Go Ninja Circus Summer Camp, a unique experience at Murphy’s Gym.

“As a mother, I remember my children’s experience in activities at school. As a teacher I could see the times when people in places of authority were not intuitive enough to give encouragement, or control a negative person in a group. After years of doing workshops on bullying, I wanted to create a learning environment free of those issues, for children and adults,” says Murphy.

“I wanted to create that place, for them and for other kids who needed a place where they could escape from the peer pressure, and just find some confidence  — just find themselves,” she says.

Melissa Desrosiers is an instructor at Murphy’s who came with a bachelor of art’s in dance. She teaches “Bad-ass Ballet” classes, and does aerial workshops. Her husband, Mike, their 14-year-old son Sam, and 16-year-old daughter, Abby, all attend classes at Murphy’s.

“Last week we put out a request on Facebook for testimonials from students,” says Desrosiers, flipping through a pile of printed pages that continue to pour in.

“There’s not one that doesn’t say they feel like Murphy’s is their second home. I know that’s really important to me, to have a place like this where my whole family can come. We all know it takes just a little bit of discouragement in life to make or break a kid. What this place provides is invaluable,” says Desrosiers.

FullSizeRender (6)And for Morehouse, the fact that Murphy’s students reflect the community in all its diversity, matters.

“We come here and find all different kinds of people from all different walks of life. There are people from all economic and cultural backgrounds, and I love that about this place,” Morehouse says.

“We come because of the great energy inside. We come because of Linda, and what happens here. It’s incredible,” says Morehouse.

Murphy says she’s learned a lot over these four years, much of it the hard way.

Over those years, despite the struggle and pressure to sell her home, she was able to help her older daughter and her young family, who needed a place to stay temporarily during a rough patch, and then when her younger daughter, while a student at UNH, moved back home and became a commuter student, after a science grant she had earned wasn’t renewed.

“The house really had a purpose, to support the kids during that time. I’ve had setbacks. I know it’s important to settle all of this so we can all move on,” says Murphy, who got an extension through the court, and was supposed to have sold the house by the end of November of 2014.

Murphy: Inspirational coach, fighting spirit

She acknowledges that it’s not unreasonable for her ex-husband to want things settled. Through all the emotional and practical chaos that happens following a divorce, it’s taken Murphy, 56, longer than she expected to clear her head and get her legs back under her.

Linda Murphy working after hours at Murphy's Gym with her dog, Leeloo.
Linda Murphy working after hours at Murphy’s Gym with her dog, Leeloo.

She’s financially down for the count, but not out. She’s never been one to back down from a challenge, and has always done whatever it takes to fulfill a dream.

Born and raised the daughter of farmers in Presque Isle, Maine, just south of the Canadian border, Murphy was an active kid who participated in all kinds of team sports. When she discovered boxing, she found herself.

“That was during a time when women weren’t allowed to box under the USA Boxing rules, which didn’t happen until the 1990s. I’d already had Shaunna, and was past the cut-off age of 34 for amateur boxers, but I knew I wanted to box in my lifetime, so I got a fake birth certificate and fulfilled that dream,” says Murphy.

“I wanted to call this ‘Bare Knuckle Murphy’s’ because it hearkens back to the time when boxing had no rules. I like the spirit of that, and wanted this to be a place where that same energy, spirit and respect for the sport existed,” says Murphy.

As coach and mentor of the gym’s boxing team, Murphy recently coached a winning New England Golden Gloves fighter.  She’s demonstrated time and again that her gift is in helping others to find their own strength, inside and outside the ring.  One of those students, open class boxer Joshua Silva, found her after 52 bouts in Mexico prior to moving to Manchester.

“He told me, ‘From all the places I’ve boxed before, this is the place that improved me the most,” says Murphy.

Coach Linda Murphy with some of her boxers from the Golden Gloves New England Championships in Lowell.
Coach Linda Murphy with some of her boxers from the Golden Gloves New England Championships in Lowell.

In the past year she’s tried to rally, facing down the task of clearing out her home, fixing and painting and prepping it for sale.

It’s taken longer than expected, even with help from her friends and co-workers.

Now she’s just about out of time. A Realtor has been through the gym to take photographs, stirring Murphy’s resolve to come out swinging.

“I feel more like I’m part of something special than the owner of a bricks-and-mortar business,” she says.

In addition to the growing popularity of Go Ninja, Murphy continues to work with at-risk youth in the community through a Child & Family Services program.

She can’t imagine doing what she does anywhere else, although it’s something she may have to face.

“I don’t really want to think about that, even though I do, sometimes. I know we can take the boxing ring down in about four hours – it’s all movable parts. I know it would be a huge disruption. Maybe I’d have to go look for an alternative place,” she says.

She believes she’s already in her right place.

“Someone suggested finding a business partner. I would be open to that. It would have to be the right person and the right circumstances, but a collaboration like that might be good,” says Murphy. “I hope someone buys the house. That would help.”

She’s sacrificed plenty to keep things going this long, and now stands to lose everything in the process – her home and the business she built from scratch. The fighter in her knows that it’s not over until it’s over.

“I’m still in this fight. I’m resolved to find a way to make it happen, whatever it takes,” she says. “This is my life, my livelihood, my home – it’s been everything to me.”


Related story: Boxing gym owner inspired by community spirit

Click here to go to the Save Our Gym fundraising page.

Learn more about Murphy’s Coaching Team here.


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About Carol Robidoux 5855 Articles
Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!