Hair gel and haymakers: Michael the Boxer kicks ass, buzzes heads

By Philip Eil

If you think You Don’t Mess With the Zohan is just another escapist summer fantasy, think again. Ass-kicking hairstylists, unlike talking panda bears and aging, yet acrobatic archaeologists, really do exist. Just ask Michael Onello, the owner of Michael the Boxer, the only boxing gym/barbershop in the Bay Area. Michael is a boxing trainer/barber who offers both services – boxing and barbering — at his SOMA shop. I headed over there last Friday, looking for a buzz cut and advice on my right hook.

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Michael, with the uppercut

I’ll admit, I had no idea what to expect from a haircut/boxing joint. The Rocky IV and Shampoo montages playing in my head seemed highly incompatible. But when I hopped in the barber’s chair and started talking with Michael, the place started to make sense. “My grandfather was a barber, my father was a barber,” he told me as he was trimming my sideburns. During the haircut, I flipped through a copy of his book, Boxing: The American Martial Art, A 12-week Course. “How’s that look?” he asked, holding a mirror up to the back of my neck. “Excellent,” I said. “When can I throw some punches?”