Touted as one of the fastest grow­ing con­tact sports in the world, white col­lar box­ing seems to have no short­age of fans here in China

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By ALYWIN CHEW in Shang­hai alywin@chi­

For some­one her age, Hilary Fan has al­ready worn an un­usual num­ber of hats. Hav­ing taken to the cat­walk as a part­time model, shaken and poured cock­tails as a bar­tender, and em­barked on a stint in fi­nance and pur­chas­ing, the 21-yearold’s lat­est achieve­ment in­volves an ac­tual piece of head gear.

Don­ning a blue head guard and gloves that look a tad over­sized for her fig­ure, Hilary “The Show Stop­per” Fan went toe-to-toe with her Bri­tish op­po­nent Esme “South Side” Har­vey dur­ing Shang­hai Fight Night, a char­ity box­ing event, at the Pudong ShangriLa Ho­tel on Dec 5.

In a ring set up in the mid­dle of a ball­room and un­der a mas­sive chan­de­lier, the two women squared off amid cheers from hun­dreds of peo­ple im­mac­u­lately dressed in evening gowns and tuxe­dos. This white col­lar box­ing bout — the first of eight fights for the night — went the full three rounds, which were just two min­utes each. Har­vey looked the more ag­gres­sive of the two box­ers, her punches find­ing Fan’s ribs and face with more con­sis­tency. Fan, how­ever, waited for her op­po­nent to com­mit be­fore un­leash­ing a flurry of counter-at­tack­ing jabs to the side of head.

The three rounds were over in a flash, but the two white col­lar box­ers looked clearly ex­hausted. The ref­eree brought the two pant­ing box­ers to­gether in the cen­ter of the ring af­ter Round 3 and promptly raised the Brit’s arm as she jumped for joy be­fore giv­ing Fan a hug.

Born in Zhengzhou, He­nan prov­ince, Fan moved to Cal­i­for­nia in the United States when she was just three, re­turn­ing to China for good only about a year ago. Cur­rently work­ing as an ac­count man­ager with Em­press Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, a brand man­age­ment com­pany in Shang­hai, Fan said that her box­ing nick­name is a ref­er­ence to the time she slipped on the cat­walk dur­ing her mod­el­ing days.

Tall, slim, and more cheru­bic than bel­li­cose, Fan hardly comes across as some­one who would even kill an in­sect, let alone step into a box­ing ring. But it is not an in­nate ag­gres­sion that Fan is at­tempt­ing to sa­ti­ate with white col­lar box­ing. Rather, she claims that she is sim­ply on the look­out for new ex­pe­ri­ences in life, hav­ing ac­knowl­edged that she might be a lit­tle too priv­i­leged as com­pared to oth­ers in so­ci­ety.

“I’ve gone to pri­vate schools my whole life so I’ve been quite shel­tered,” Fan said. “I felt like I needed to get out more and see the world. It’s all about try­ing out new things, test­ing my bound­aries to see how far I can go.” all th­ese ob­jec­tives, you will en­counter ob­sta­cles and at­tempt to over­come them. By do­ing so, you also understand more about your­self,” said the 34-year-old liquor trader.

“Box­ing is not the art of punch­ing hard. It’s the art of bal­ance. That’s the beauty of it. ”

Ac­cord­ing to Shane Be­nis, the founder of China Sports Pro­mo­tions — or­ga­nizer of Shang­hai Fight Night — more than 4,000 peo­ple have signed up with his com­pany’s af­fil­i­ated gyms, such as Golden Gloves Box­ing Gym, since the con­clu­sion of his in­au­gu­ral box­ing event in 2008. Fur­ther­more, com­pa­nies in other parts of China have also started to roll out their own white col­lar box­ing com­pe­ti­tions.

One such out­fit is Suzhoubased Black Tie Box­ing In­ter­na­tional, which was only founded ear­lier this year. Set up by Croa­t­ian boxer Marko Marti­novic, the com­pany re­cently held its first white col­lar box­ing event, ti­tled Suzhou Show­down, in the city’s Crowne Plaza Ho­tel on Nov 27 in Jiangsu prov­ince.

Dalia Fer­nan­dez, the busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager at Black Tie Box­ing In­ter­na­tional, echoed the fact that the sport is in­deed be­com­ing more pop­u­lar in China as well as other parts of Asia, and that the com­pany may ex­pand to other sec­ond-tier Chi­nese cities in the near fu­ture

“We have seen a rise in pop­u­lar­ity among Chi­nese na­tion­als…there is also a huge rise all around Asia in cities like Sin­ga­pore, Tokyo, Shang­hai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Bangkok. In the past five years, white col­lar box­ing events have be­come a 30-mil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try,” she said.

Of the sev­eral white col­lar box­ing events held in China, China Sports Pro­mo­tions is widely re­garded as the pioneer in this field. Founded by Be­nis in 2008, the com­pany held its first event at the Hy­att on the Bund Ho­tel, draw­ing a crowd of 320 spec­ta­tors.

The main fo­cus of such events is to raise funds for char­ity, and this in­au­gu­ral fight col­lected more than 80,000 yuan ($12,485) which was later dis­trib­uted to Xin Xin Char­ity and Half The Sky Foun­da­tion. The ben­e­fi­ciary of the lat­est edi­tion of Shang­hai Fight Night is the Foun­da­tion for New­borns with Res­pi­ra­tory Fail­ure. The cost per guest this year ranged from 900 yuan to 2,000 yuan for a seat at a ring­side ta­ble.

The suc­cess of his first event has since spurred Be­nis, a for­mer petro­chem­i­cal trader, to or­ga­nize more than 20 fights in other parts of China, in­clud­ing Beijing, Ma­cao and Taipei. Ev­ery year in Shang­hai, China Sports Pro­mo­tions holds two white col­lar box­ing events, Brawl on The Bund and Shang­hai Fight Night.

“Box­ing was nonex­is­tent as a mar­ket­ing tool in Shang­hai and Beijing when we first started. Not many com­pa­nies be­lieved box­ing could pro­vide a suit­able av­enue to pro­mote their busi­nesses,” said Be­nis.

“To­day, we’ve proven ev­ery­one wrong. The sport is be­com­ing ex­tremely pop­u­lar with women in China too. There isn’t a bet­ter work­out than this.”

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