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Posted on Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

'Fitness over fighting': Boxing club to open Ann Arbor, Brighton locations Monday

By Tom Perkins

Boxers require a body type that many strive to achieve through working out, but most people aren’t willing to be repeatedly bopped in the face to attain the physique.

Promising "fitness over fighting," the TITLE Boxing Club is the latest franchising effort of Ann Arbor businessman John Rotche. The club will open its Ann Arbor location on Jan. 7 in the Boulevard Plaza on Stadium Boulevard, as well as one in Brighton.

Offering unlimited classes for a membership fee of $59 a month, the gym has adapted the classic boxing club concept for the masses, according to previous reporting done by

Rotche also is one of the nation’s top franchising executives and recently received the “Entrepreneur of the Year” award from the International Franchising Association.

Rotche became a partner at the Kansas City-based TITLE early last year to increase its franchise count. When he signed on in early 2012, there were 60 TITLES nationwide and that number has since spiked to 400, making it the fastest growing franchise in America.


John Rotche

Photo courtesy of TITLE

Rotche said he was attracted to the business for some of the same of the reasons so many customers sign up for memberships — because there is no fighting at TITLE. Instead, members train by working on weight bags hanging from the ceiling, hitting trainers’ mitts in the boxing rings or working with medicine balls to energetic music.

The atmosphere is what one might expect of a boxing club with exposed brick and distressed hardwood floors, but it’s also clean, minimal and well-designed, Rotche said.

“We want to create a boxing gym atmosphere but with no fighting,” he said. “There are people who want that work out but don’t feel like getting in the ring and training in a bad part of town, so instead we’re opening next to Targets.”

There also is limited weights and cardio.

“We’re not a typical health club,” Rotche underscored.

Members, many of whom are women in the 25- to 55-year old age range, choose from a one-month club card or an annual card that offers unlimited classes each month, access to any TITLE in the country and discounts at the TITLE apparel and gear shop.

The latter is for those who seek to make the gym a part of their lifestyle, Rotche said, while the former is set up for those who want to see if the gym is what they are looking for.

Rotche has a long history in Ann Arbor, which is where his career took an unexpected turn into franchising at Domino’s Pizza.

In the late 1980’s, Rotche was recruited by Bo Schembechler to play football at the University of Michigan, but was permanently sidelined by a neck injury. He spent time on the coaching staff and began to work toward a degree that kept him on that path.

At the time, Domino’s was regularly hiring U-M athletes, and Rotche was charged by Domino’s CEO Tom Monaghan with running six Ann Arbor locations.


A workout at a TITLE Boxing Club

Photo courtesy of TITLE

The stores set national sales records and thrived under Rotche’s five-year watch, but he decided to move on to Krispy Kreme Donuts when Monaghan sold Domino’s to Bain Capital in 1997.

Krispy Kreme was a hot brand at the time and franchises sold quickly, but Rotche also purchased a small air duct cleaning business, DUCTZ, off his brother-in-law as a passive investment. When Rotche’s son came down with a severe respiratory ailment, the doctor suggested cleaning the air vents in his home as a way to help.

Rotche’s son’s health improved after the cleaning, leading Rotche to shift his focus to DUCTZ, though he knew the industry was not among the most reputable.

“When my son got better, emotionally that really directed me to the business, but air duct cleaning was known as a shady business,” he said. “I believed in the service when done properly, but I was going against an entire industry of people not doing it the right way.”

The work caught the attention of Belfor, one of the country’s largest emergency cleanup companies. They offered to purchase DUCTZ in 2007 and have Rotche stay on for five years as a franchise executive. Within two years it had grown into the nation’s largest air duct cleaning company with more than 200 offices.

In 2009, as part of Belfor Franchising, Rotche launched HOODZ, a restaurant kitchen hood system cleaning company and DUCTZ sister concept that grew from one to 200 offices nationwide within 18 months.

The rapid growth and success of those franchises led the International Franchising Association to name Rotche “Entrepreneur of the Year”, whose previous recipients included Monoghan, J.W. Marriott and Subway founder Fred DeLuca.

Prior to being honored with the award, Rotche had discussed the idea of working with TITLE with its owners, former boxer and promoter Danny Campbell and Kansas City businessman Tom Lyons.

Lyons and Campbell were at the award ceremony, and after learning of his accomplishments, offered to make Rotche an equal partner if he came aboard to grow the brand.

The business was attractive to Rotche because Campbell brought the boxing knowledge and Lyons had the business acumen, and they were working with Title Boxing Equipment, which is the world’s largest boxing gear and apparel manufacturer.

But Rotche provided a missing piece of franchising experience at the ownership level, and that boosted the company's growth rate to more than a franchise a day since he joined in March 2012.

Eight locations are planned for southeast Michigan, and Rotche’s TITLEs at 2115 W. Stadium Blvd. and the Brighton location are his first.

“I needed to get the street credibility; it’s hard for me to do the brand if I’ve never run a club,” he said.



Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 8:24 p.m.

Whatever the thoughts are on this particular gym, I for one applaud Mr. Rotche for finding a business that could potentially thrive in a tough location. Being so far from the street the location is not ideal for retail or restaurant but this may be a good fit and help drive traffic to the area's other businesses. Good Luck TITLE.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 7:40 p.m.

The owner of the Mike Tyson Brass Knuckles Cage Fighting & Full Concussion franchise declined comment on this story. ;-)


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 6:54 p.m.

if Roche can get the soccer moms to put their phones down for 15mins ... then I support the movement.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 6:31 p.m.

Sure, it's a workout. But without the fight or flight response that comes from stepping up against a real person, I don't see how this can be called boxing.

Just Some Guy

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 6:42 p.m.

Agree 100%, but they aren't selling boxing training. They are selling a boxer's workout. Regular boxing gyms do that too. The problem is that regular boxing gyms are few around here. When I was a kid I trained in the bottom of a community center. It was old school, dark, gray walls. It was great. But I never actually sparred, wasn't interested after seeing my brother get a bloody nose :)

Just Some Guy

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 6:18 p.m.

Question for somebody who has been there. Do they teach and insist on proper form or is it more like cardio kickboxing?

Just Some Guy

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 5:39 p.m.

What is wrong with white collar boxing? Of course there is no fighting. It is for people who don't like bruises.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 5:51 p.m.

Or don't like hitting a person. I rather punch a bag vs a person, what if a freak accident happen and the person you punched got seriously injured ? I would feel awful regardless who was at fault.

Dog Guy

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 4:45 p.m.

Opening on Jan. 7? Isn't December 26 Boxing Day?


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 5:49 p.m.

I believe Boxing Day is a Canadian holiday when people would box up items for service personal. It, unfortunately, isn't a celebrated holiday that it once was. I know of a few Canadians any they don't think much of it. It may be the sign of the times with Canada not being too involved in military activities since ww2. But then again this I'd just an opinion.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 4:44 p.m.

A boxing club without at least the option to spar or fight seems to me akin to a vegetarian steakhouse. Yes, the side dishes, or in this case bag work, are great, but something is just missing.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 6:13 p.m.

@Dr. Fate: I have been doing BJJ as well, but not for as long as you have. I go to a dojo where they also have boxing, Muay Thai, MMA and wrestling, and you can mix and match and it's fine for beginners, but it's a bit out of the way: Kaizen (formerly EastWest) in Plymouth. They do have kid's classes often at the same time as adult classes, although it's less than ideal for family fun.

Just Some Guy

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 5:49 p.m.

Michael Flattley is going to be a trainer there?


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 5:41 p.m.

How about Michael Flattley dancing around the place giving stares of encouragement? Would this fill your feeling of something missing? He was a golden glove.

Dr. Fate

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 5:38 p.m.

I agree with you but as a family fitness thing, I like this idea. I've been doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for 6 years, and the hardest part for me is always missing out on family time (especially around homework/dinner time). For learning boxing (as a beginner) around Ann Arbor, do you have any recommendations? A2 Fight Club seems a bit above the zero experience level.

Dr. Fate

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 2:09 p.m.

This looks interesting. I always wanted to learn a little boxing. I like the fact that you can go with family and kids too. I was hoping there would be a sparring option other than hitting mitts but this looks good in all other respects.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 6:21 p.m.

Around here some will vote you down even if you praise Mom and apple pie; it's just the nature of the beast. As to beginner's boxing lessons, see my reply to your post below.

Dr. Fate

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 5:58 p.m.

Negative votes? I wasn't meaning to offend people. Having a couples/family fitness activity like this sounds great. On a side note, I've been interested in taking beginner boxing lessons for myself and would love to hear recommendations around the Ann Arbor area.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 2:02 p.m.

Was in one of the classes on Saturday and LOVED it!! I've done Cardio Kickboxing for years and wanted to kick it up a notch and this class definitely did that! Trainers were great and the atmosphere was high-energy, just what I like when working out. Wish much success to you all over at TITLE!


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 1:53 p.m.

"Members, many of whom are women in the 25- to 55-year old age range," 55 year old lady boxer seems like a good untapped target audience. Maybe in a year the liquidators will have a special on lightly used heavy bags.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 7:03 p.m.

So, dawnsong, you unwittingly proved my point. Yes, there are TONS of fit 55 year old women. Just not a whole lot that want to box (just like you don't). When you give up rowing and join the fight club, write back.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 5:47 p.m.

I hope safety is first in that club. Punching a workout bag should be OK but I hope they don't go punching each other. I rather lift weights and use a treadmill if I had to workout indoors.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 4:57 p.m.

EyeHeartA2, you sound like a young person. I am a 60-year-old "lady" and my athletic interests and abilities are close to what they were at the age of 35. Frankly, I still feel like I'm about 35. A boxing workout might interest me, but I'd have to give up rowing to make time and I don't want to do that. Thought it might brighten your day to know that a person doesn't necessarily fall apart by the age of 55.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 12:50 p.m.

It's a great workout!


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 11:25 a.m.

Michael Flattley was a golden gloves champ in 1975. Maybe some space to practice a river dance routine might be kinda cool.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 8:49 p.m.

Michael Flatley won the Chicago Golden Glove Amateur Boxing Championship. Plus he is a great dancer. I would love to see a boxing routine with a fast pace river dance routine combined. I think this would make a great workout and a whole lot of fun.