By Moira Blazi
Vince Backen says he originally bought the large mineral avenue building that now houses Libby gym, mostly because he “really wanted to clean it up…. make it look nice, and put it to use.”
Being a boxer, Backen undoubtably had that in mind as he, and his son Matt, who have boxed together since Matt was a boy, began clearing out the massive space. They soon discovering that the well lit and spacious upstairs was a perfect place for a boxing ring.
This was in the late spring of 2015, and after clearing out the upstirs, Backen and his son started the Northwest Montana Boxing Club with a top-grade ring, punching bags, speed bags, and workout equipment. At that point, “Everything was upstairs, the downstairs was still full of junk,” Backen told The Montanian. To the casual passerby, the building still looked unused while the boxing cub upstairs was thriving and growing. “One of the first things we did was create an upstairs balcony that we could use to watch Ignite the Nites, and have live music, because Jeff Decker said he would not play there unless it was covered,” Backen said with a grin.
Since then, they’ve sent boxers Cris Watts and Matt Backen to semipro bouts in Kalispell, and Timothy Brevka to a pubic bout down in Hamilton. While the brother and sisterhood of boxers upstairs continued to grow, the generous downstairs space began to get cleaned out attracting people and ideas.
A lady came in one day and said, “this would be a nice dance studio,” Backen said. That lady turned out to be Brivka Marina who began holding several dance classes per week last summer. She offers ballet as well as therapeutic massage. Right about the same time that Marina joined the club, one of Vince’s relatives was telling him that he should start some dance and ballet classes in Libby, Backen recalled with a smile.
With that boxers’ perfect timing, Backen was finally able to bring down the upstairs workout equipment, buy and install some modern new weight machines, treadmills and bicycles, and fill out the public face of Libby Gym. “We are not really in competition with the other fitness facilities in town,” Backen explained. “We have a different clientele. We are a little more of a retro gym. Boxing is really a total fitness sport and has been found to be therapeutic in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.”
For those who like to push the envelope, they also after MMA fighting and jujitsu on Tuesday nights.
Always looking forward, the Libby gym will be busy this winter. They plan to install a 35 foot climbing wall in the building which will span three stories from the basement up through the second floor.
When asked about rumors of a comedy club, Backen confirmed that indeed there has been an ongoing comedy workshop, where aspiring comics come to hone their craft and crack each other up. “The comedy is not always politically correct,” Backen admitted, “So we are working on developing something that can become a public comedy club, which we plan
Photo of Vince Backen in the Libby Gym . Photo by Moira Blazi of the Montanian