FROM THE OFFICE TO THE RING
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
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.”