Boxing is not just something to watch on TV but a sport any office worker can take part in to improve their life, according to participants in the recently concluded White Collar Boxing night in Beijing.
Originating in New York in the late 1980s, White Collar Boxing, where office workers with no prior boxing experience train to fight on special occasions, has introduced the pugilistic art to many busy professionals in China, especially among expats.
“I have done a lot of sports, and nothing has pushed me as hard as boxing,” said 25-year-old Lauren Himle, a sales person with Ecolab and one of 16 contestants whose occupations ranged from teacher and manager to diplomatic personnel. “It feels great and gives you a certain confidence that you can carry into your personal and professional life.”
Himle believes white collars like her have a problem, as most sit in an office all day and boxing is a good way to release stress and feel alive again.
Coach Jerson Esrtoro, 35, from the Philippines, was one of the trainers of this year’s contestants. In the past three years of teaching in a Beijing gym, Esrtoro said he had noticed the growing popularity among expats as well as local Chinese.
Motivation for his customers includes accepting a challenge, relieving stress, keeping fit and staying competitive.
“Sometimes, sitting in the office all day can be so exhausting,” he said. “As they come out of the office to box, they feel good again after that. It’s a good way to relax and workout.”
Compared with other sports, Garrett Brick, 26, from Canada, thinks the reason white collars prefer boxing is that it is much easier and quicker to pick up, although it can get tough.
“If you see people really good at tennis, it is amazing to watch. But if they are bad, you don’t care. But for boxing, it’s fun to watch whether they are good or bad,” said Brick, as he prepared for his first bout. “We are not professional, but if someone sees us fighting and knows we learnt in three months, it makes people want to participate themselves”.
Although winning a bout in front of an audience is the ultimate dream for every fighter, training also benefits participants in many ways.
Kash Shan, a 29-year-old director with Worldlink Education, lost nearly 17 kilos in three months’ training. He is now more confident about his body and health, and prefers to go the gym instead of heading to the bar after work.
Shan believes that makes white collar boxing special is the discipline that comes with it.
“When you receive discipline, it gives you discipline. Once you start to train regularly, it becomes easy to participate,” he said. “Some people are really good at their work, but do not invest much time in their bodies. Boxing gives them the opportunity to succeed in their life as well as their business”.
Boxing also trains fighters to discover their limits and strength, and to look for a strategy that works best for them.
“I’ve got a very strong right hand, and I move well,” said Shan. “My weakness is that I don’t read my opponent very well, and I can get nervous sometimes.”
Himle shares the feeling when facing an opponent in the ring. “There is no other sport that people are coming at you, and you are the target,” she said. “So you need to train your brain just as much as you need to train your body”.
“Whether you feel scared or not, when someone throws a punch on you, you forget everything you’ve learnt,” said Brick, “You have to train yourself to do something smarter, that’s the sort of development you can take to other parts of your life”.
After all the preparation the 16 fighters contested 8 bouts, three rounds of two minutes each, at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Beijing during a black-tie charity dinner attended by around 500.
“There is no other feeling in the world like going into the ring and having your family and friends cheering for you,” said Himle. “It gives people a dream to live outside the office.”