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21 SEPTEMBER 2018

 

Everlast: The Choice of Champions


By Thomas Hauser
Everlast is the oldest major brand name in boxing. The company was founded in 1910 by a 17-year-old Bronx resident named Jacob Golomb. Golomb, the son of a tailor, wanted to manufacture swimsuits that lasted a full summer. Thus, the name "Everlast". Several years later, he opened a small retail store to sell his swimwear and began manufacturing other sports equipment.

In 1917, Golomb was approached by a young fighter named Jack Dempsey, who wanted to know if Golomb could provide him with protective headgear that would stand up to the rigors of training. Golomb agreed; and Dempsey, in effect, became Everlast's first boxing consultant. In 1919, when Dempsey knocked out Jess Willard to capture the heavyweight championship, he wore gloves made for him by Golomb. Six years later, Golomb expanded his line by designing elastic-waist boxing trunks to replace the leather-belted trunks worn by most boxers.

By the 1930s, Everlast was America's premier manufacturer of boxing equipment and the standard against which all others were judged. At one point, the New York State Athletic Commission went so far as to require that Everlast gloves be worn in bouts contested in New York. And to the public, Everlast became known as "The Choice of Champions," with its equipment worn by the likes of Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, and Sugar Ray Robinson.

Jacob Golomb died in the 1950s, and the company was taken over by his son, Dan. In 1958, the Golomb family sold a 50 percent interest in Everlast to a businessman named Ben Nadorf. Then, in 1995, Dan Golomb died and Nadorf purchased the remaining 50 percent. But a problem was brewing. Over the years, the quality of Everlast equipment had deteriorated, and an increasing number of marquee fighters were opting for other manufacturers.

Enter George Horowitz.

Horowitz was born into a lower-middle-class family in Brooklyn in 1950. "It was very important to my parents that my brother, three sisters, and I graduate from college," he says. "And we all did."

In George's case, that meant graduating from Long Island University. He planned on going to law school, but the war in Vietnam was raging. And rather than go into the military, Horowitz taught social studies in the New York City public school system, which exempted him from the draft. Then, in 1976, he was laid off during the city's budget crisis. That left him with a pregnant wife, no money, and no job. He sold insurance for a year, and was good at it but hated it. So when a family friend started a small apparel business, Horowitz joined him.

In 1990, Horowitz went out on his own and formed a company, later known as Active Apparel Group, to design, manufacture, and market women's sportswear. In 1992, he licensed the Everlast name and logo for use on what he called women's "activewear." Essentially, Horowitz was putting a men's label on sportswear and fitness clothing for women. "It was about empowerment," he says. Six years later, Active Apparel acquired an Everlast license for men's sportswear as well. Then, in October 2000, it acquired Everlast itself for stock and cash valued at $60,000,000 and changed its name to Everlast Worldwide, Inc. "It was a case of the guppy swallowing the whale," says Horowitz.

And Horowitz was like a kid in a candy store. "I'd loved boxing since I was five years old," he remembers. "My father took me to the Golden Gloves when I was a kid. We went to club fights and closed-circuit telecasts. I even saw Ali fight at Madison Square Garden. I was a fan of many sports, but boxing always had a special charm for me."

Everlast now has executive offices and a showroom at 1350 Broadway in Manhattan. Horowitz is its President and Chief Executive Officer. The company has roughly 275 full-time employees. At the retail level, it generates sales of $300,000,000 annually.

Everlast's income flows from three sources.

First, it manufactures 80 separate sportswear products featuring the Everlast logo. This apparel is manufactured by independent contractors (65% in the United States and 35% in Asia) and sold by mail order, over the internet, and in 20,000 retail locations. "Probably about 10 percent of our apparel is worn to work out in for fitness reasons," Horowitz posits. "The rest is worn for comfort and casual sportwear." Within the United States, this generates annual wholesale sales of $36,000,000.

Second, Everlast licenses its logo for use by other manufacturers on everything from clothing and watches to weight-training equipment. This generates roughly $6,000,000 in licensing fees for the company on $100,000,000 in wholesale sales worldwide.

And last, Everlast remains committed to the manufacture of sporting goods related to boxing. Gloves, trunks, robes, mouthpieces, protective cups, heavy bags, speed bags, boxing rings, and other equipment generate $22,000,000 in wholesale sales annually.

Everlast's boxing equipment is manufactured in two facilities; one in the Bronx and one in Missouri. It is both standard and custom-made, although less than $1,000,000 flows from sales to boxing professionals. That's partly because the market is small. And its partly because Everlast lost a significant portion of its professional market share in the 1990s.

"The product was awful by the late 1990s," Horowitz acknowledges. The shoes were terrible. All they did was throw an Everlast logo on a stock shoe made in Pakistan. The basic Everlast glove design hadn't changed for years. It was an embarrassment to the company. You have to understand; Everlast was boxing. Fighters of every ethnic background had worn Everlast equipment for decades. And it was all falling apart. There was no way I could continue the company like that when I took over."

In one of his first moves after acquiring Everlast, Horowitz hired Teddy Atlas as a consultant regarding the redesign of the company's boxing equipment.

"I'm very cynical about people," says Atlas. "But I think George Horowitz is a good guy. He tries to do things in a way that's good for business but is also the right thing to do. And he's doing right by the boxing equipment.

I'm not a fashion expert," Atlas continues. I know that Everlast has to balance its traditional look for robes, trunks and shoes against what fighters today want in the way of style, but that's not my job. My job is to be concerned with the effectiveness, safety, and comfort of the equipment. For example, the old Everlast shoes weren't comfortable. Putting them on was like putting boxes on your feet. They're much better now. With the gloves, Reyes gloves are known as puncher's gloves, and there's some truth to that. With Reyes, there's less cushion around the punching area and the leather is pulled tighter. For that reason, Reyes gloves are also known as cutting gloves. And what we did at Everlast with our gloves was, we kept the stitching and outside of the glove the way we had it, but we redesigned the inside to conform more to the boxer's hand and give the glove a puncher's grip."

Horowitz elaborates on the redesign of Everlast gloves, which is symbolic of the company's commitment to the future. "We went to the experts," he says. "People like Dr. Charles Melone, who told us there are new ideas medically about hands today. We took advantage of modern materials for moisture management. We converted to new forms of padding that are more protective and more comfortable and don't break down during a fight. The first step toward getting marquee fighters to use your equipment is making the best equipment, and I think we're doing that now."

Horowitz has tried to keep Everlast in the public eye through a series of boxing seminars, other promotional events, and endorsement deals with fighters like Shane Mosley. He'd like as many big-name fighters as possible to return to Everlast trunks, shoes, and gloves. "That's a given," he says. "It helps at every level of sales to have champions wearing your equipment; and in addition, it would be an honor for us."

Certainly, in that regard, Everlast has a leg up on the competition. "We have an advantage," Horowitz says in closing. "With a name like Everlast, we can get the fighters to give us a fair hearing and listen to what we have to say. You can't buy authenticity. Either it's there or it isn't; and Everlast has it."

And to prove his point, Horowitz refers to Clarence Vinson, who represented the United States in the 119-pound division at the 2000 Olympics. A reporter once asked Vinson what Everlast meant to him. Vinson responded, "Everlast; when I hear that name, it touches me deep."

To contact the author, please email thauserthauserrcn.com



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