From the small basement of a suburban Kansas City home to the world’s innovative leader in boxing equipment and services, the story behind Ringside’s humble beginnings mirrors the very same ebb and flow that paces a classic boxing match.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, John H. Brown stumbled upon the sport as a thirteen year-old boy looking to build on a small frame and administer his own version of bully prevention by earning the respect of the neighborhood fraternity. And that he did by honing his skills at a local boxing gym and eventually going on to compete in amateur boxing for several years.
It was there, in that gym, that John realized his true passion. That gym, that love for the sport, would go on to focus and drive him for the rest of his life. The name of that gym? You guessed it, Ringside.
While in college, John made the natural transition from athlete to coach. He relocated to Kansas City and opened a boxing gym. As those familiar with the sport understand, voluntarily managing a gym is an all-encompassing endeavor, and one that naturally leads to a proficient understanding of the necessary equipment.
He would come to find that his expectations of the boxing gear weren’t being met. He felt it was too expensive and poorly designed, particularly in the area of safety, so he decided to make a change.
It was then that John laid the groundwork for a company based on providing top-quality gear at a fair price, backed-up by exceptional customer service, and in 1978 Ringside was born with the first mailing of a four-page catalog.
Working out of the basement of his home, John pieced together a mailing list of a couple hundred addresses he had gathered from friends in the game. It was the first mail-order boxing equipment catalog of its kind and mainly consisted of product John distributed for an already established brand.
He talked with the representatives of this brand about implementing changes in their line that would increase the quality and safety of the gear. A couple of these suggestions were replacing the horse hair used for glove padding with shock absorbing foam, as well as attaching the thumb to the body of the sparring glove to prevent eyes from being poked.
John’s recommendations were never applied, so John set off to produce products to his high standard of quality and safety. After a very labor intensive process, John eventually found skilled craftsman to make the product to his exact specifications and launched Ringside branded equipment in 1979.
Many equipment innovations taken for granted today were created by John and had very practical origins. One of the very first products was a hand wrap with a hook & loop closure. Prior to this, all hand wraps had strings on the end to tie closed. Being the only coach in his gym, John felt it unproductive to spend so much time tying the strings on the hand wraps of the 40 – 50 boxers in the gym every night. The new hand wraps with the hook & loop closure allowed the boxers to secure their own wraps, saving John’s time for more useful gym tasks. John was also the first to bring to market gym timers with lights, Super Bag Gloves, uppercut bags, body protectors, heavy bags with foam liners and much more.
John has prided himself on owning a company by and for boxing people. This unique perspective has enabled him to grow the company from within the sport, rather than outside looking in, and is one of the many reasons for the company’s success.
This fact holds true today, as it did over three decades ago. John continues to manage and coach at his gym every night and surround himself with others who care as much about the sport as he does. The Ringside catalog now offers all the gear necessary to aid boxers in the pursuit of their athletic goals, whether that goal is merely to improve physical fitness or win a world championship. It’s John’s life-long endeavor and what has made Ringside “The Best in Boxing.”