Boxers rolled colorful wraps around their palms and knuckles and began their workouts by punching heavy bags or jumping rope Tuesday morning.
Nick Nixon, owner of EJK Boxing & Fitness Club in Killeen, nodded and clapped his approval when the boxers started running laps.
After 20 years in military intelligence and five more years as a government contractor, retired 1st Sgt. Nixon, a certified U.S. Army master fitness trainer, opened EJK in 2012.
It all started with a mirror, he said. One day he looked at his reflection and asked what he wanted to do with his life.
“It had to be something I could do forever — boxing,” he said.
A Philadelphia native, the 47-year-old Nixon learned to box when he was 8.
“My mama dragged me to a club, but once I got there, I thought, ‘wow,’” Nixon said.
To start EJK, Nixon invested $40,000 of his own money.
He named the business EJK after his 5-year-old daughter, Earline’s, initials. He and his wife, Kila Nixon, a trainer at the club, also have two teenage sons.
EJK is not an ordinary gym. It focuses on boxing and fitness training.
Novices and professionals can attend fitness classes three times a week, train on their own and use a variety of weights and exercise equipment.
Sharon Parker lost 25 pounds after she began working out at the gym a year ago.
“It’s a family thing now, and my husband and our two kids come here,” Parker said.
The sense of family and client support separate EJK from other gyms, Nixon said. Staff members know their clients well and what they want to achieve.
“Our club is very family-oriented,” said Kila Nixon.
Cedric “The Spiderman” Marks, a professional mixed martial arts fighter who teaches EJK classes twice a week, said boxing is beneficial to everyone.
“It’s low impact, a great overall workout and (leads to) big weight loss,” Marks said.
Like a general inspecting his troops, Nick Nixon walked through several rows of boxers, correcting their stance or showing the proper way to jab.
“Form counts,” said Kila Nixon, before stepping in the 12-foot square ring and working with a female boxer. “Without it, there is chaos in the ring.”
First-timer Christopher Gonder said he wanted to try boxing to boost his self confidence, while veteran boxer Ed Pacheco encouraged soldiers struggling with physical training to try the sport.
“It’s the best way to stay in shape,” Pacheco said. “It’s all about getting to where you want to be.”