Editor's note (Dec. 13, 2022): A previous version of this story identified Roberto Duran as a Newport fighter and chief sparring partner of Mike Tyson. Duran was from Panama and fought in the middleweight class. Tyson was a heavyweight, so the two would not have sparred. The names of the fighters who used Shamrock Gym have been identified, and the story corrected.


COVINGTON, Ky. — After being vacant for years, a building in Covington where prominent professional boxers once trained appeared to be down for the count.

But an out-of-state developer now has the place looking like it can go another ten rounds, at least.

What You Need To Know

  • A building on Madison Avenue in Covington was once home to the Shamrock Gym

  • There you would find Mike Tyson's sparring partner, a fighter who went up against Roberto Duran and others

  • The building had been vacant for several years after the gym left

  • It has now been renovated into several apartments, including affordable housing

The makeover is also providing some much needed affordable housing to the northern Kentucky community.

Looking inside the Madison Avenue building in recent years, one would only find space, and maybe some spiders. Before 809–811 Madison Avenue became a vacant building, it would be more likely you could run into the likes of “Iron” Mike Tyson’s chief sparring partner, Nate Tubbs, Newport fighter, Ron Martinez who had entered the ring with the “Hands of Stone” himself, Roberto Duran or even Frank Rhodes of Cincinnati who fought for the United States Boxing Association (USBA) super middleweight title and countless others fighters. 

The building was home to Shamrock Gym, a boxing gym ran by local boxer Terry O’Brien.

It had been vacant for several years after the gym moved out, before a grassroots real estate investor from California took an interest.

“It was just a really good building to keep the downtown rejuvenation going. We’ve had a lot of momentum here downtown getting buildings redone,” said Covington Federal Grants Manager Jeremy Wallace.

Wallace said the D&M company used Covington’s Upper Floor Residential Rehab Program.

The project began in 2018 and progressed through three phases of development, with a fire temporarily delaying work, Wallace said.

The building was converted into 15 apartments and two street level commercial spaces. The company matched the $20,000 Covington provided in interest-free loans for each unit. Eight of the units have affordable monthly rent limits based on income, addressing what Wallace said was a big need.

“There’s a gap in affordable housing units. Meaning there’s not enough units at an affordable rate for people that need them. The downtown rejuvenation, especially of the central business district, has been awesome,” Wallace said. “If you just look at Covington the last couple years, all the buildings that have been redone, all the momentum, all the new commercial activity is great. But it has driven up rent considerably. So a lot of folks that maybe used to be able to live down here probably can’t anymore.”

Realiant Property Management, the local property manager, said two residential units remain available, as do both commercial spaces.

The city didn’t fund the program this year because of low demand, but with several developers inquiring, that will probably change in the coming budget cycle, Wallace said.