WHITE COL­LAR BOX­ING PROVES A BIG HIT IN BEI­JING.

A char­ity box­ing com­pe­ti­tion for of­fice pro­fes­sion­als hones their fight­ing spirit in­side and out­side the ring. Eric Jou re­ports in Bei­jing.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at er­icjou@chi­nadaily.com.cn. Sun Xiaochen con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle.

The bell rings. Punches fly — first a jab. Then a hook. The bell sounds again, and the fight is over. It’s fin­ished in six min­utes — six short min­utes, fol­low­ing three long months of gru­el­ing train­ing. But game de­signer Sa­muel Green says it was all worth it. Green re­moves his head­gear and gloves, and pulls out his mouth guard. He re­ceives a medal for the show he just put on. The de­ci­sion is an­nounced. The crowd rages. Green lost, de­spite a ma­jor come­back near the end of Round 2. But he isn’t up­set. Green didn’t sign up for White Col­lar Box­ing to win the com­pe­ti­tion. He did it to ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing new.

Stand­ing 1.78 me­ters tall and weigh­ing 74 kilo­grams, Green doesn’t look like what most peo­ple ex­pect of a boxer.

The video-game de­signer spends his days work­ing on com­put­ers at a desk.

He had vir­tu­ally no fight­ing ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore he signed up for White Col­lar Box­ing. “It’s just a chal­lenge,” he says. “It’s some­thing I’ve never done be­fore. I like to get fit and test my­self, and learn some­thing new. I’m a game de­signer by pro­fes­sion. So I like get­ting into chal­lenges and work­ing out things. There are a lot of par­al­lels be­tween (video) games and sports.”

White Col­lar Box­ing has only re­cently ar­rived in Bei­jing since it started in the United States. The com­pe­ti­tion has been staged an­nu­ally since 2008.

It essen­tially takes non- box­ers — mostly white-col­lar pro­fes­sion­als — and gives them the chance to punch each other for a cause.

The matches ben­e­fit a Shang­hai non­profit called Leo’s Foun­da­tion, founded by Scott and Ce­cile Spirit, or­ga­nizer and co-founder Shane Benis says.

“They had pre­ma­ture ba­bies in 2008,” he ex­plains. “They were cared for in Fu­dan Univer­sity’s Chil­dren Hos­pi­tal’s neo-in­ten­sive care unit, and they caught wind that some fam­i­lies couldn’t af­ford the health­care. So they started a foun­da­tion to help pay for the care of pre­ma­ture ba­bies.”

White Col­lar Box­ing has do­nated more than $200,000 to the char­ity, also known as the Foun­da­tion for New­borns with Res­pi­ra­tory Fail­ure, its web­site says. Benis and WCBC are now work­ing to found a sim­i­lar foun­da­tion in Bei­jing.

While the events are bilin­gual, the pro­por­tion of lo­cal fight­ers is in the sin­gle dig­its. But many over­seas Chi­nese par­tic­i­pate.

“Am­a­teur box­ing in China is a pow­er­house,” Benis says. “They train two or three hours in the morn­ing, two or three in the evening. They don’t’ even go to school.”

How­ever, “Box­ing in China, in terms of fol­low­ing and gen­eral par­tic­i­pa­tion, is in its in­fancy”.

Bob Arum, CEO and founder of glob­ally lead­ing box­ing-pro­mo­tion com­pany Top Rank, says the pas­time was pop­u­lar in the coun­try but was banned fol­low­ing New China’s 1949 found­ing. That carved away much of its fan base, he says.

Arum be­lieves box­ing is poised for a re­newal in China with the re­cent rise of such do­mes­tic fight­ers as Zou Shim­ing.

“We be­lieve there is a hunger for box­ing,” Arum says.

“What we found out was that sports are a very na­tion­al­is­tic thing. Box­ing is a one-on-one sport. Peo­ple like root­ing for fight­ers they can iden­tify from their coun­try.”

Arum says Chi­nese cheered zeal­ously for Zou dur­ing his pro de­but in Ma­cao in early April.

The rise of such stars has gen­er­ated more in­ter­est in am­a­teur fights.

Green and his com­peti­tors un­der­went ar­du­ous two-hour ses­sions three days a week for three months. It was so in­tense that steam could be seen swirling off Green’s head at one point.

Their prepa­ra­tions in­clude weight train­ing, phys­i­cal con­di­tion­ing and box­ing tech­niques.

The cul­mi­na­tion of th­ese dozens of hours of pun­ish­ing drills is a fi­nal to­tal­ing eight min­utes in the ring. Each fight is two min­utes, plus a minute or so for strut­ting and another 30 sec­onds be­tween rounds.

Train­ing started early sum­mer. Fight­ers were se­lected half­way through. The 23 cho­sen con­tes­tants, in­clud­ing ac­coun­tants, ed­i­tors, re­searchers and engi­neers, joined the Brawl on the Wall event.

On the fi­nal night, Green is jumpy and en­er­getic as he awaits his mo­ment in the spot­light.

He seems ner­vous but in­sists he isn’t. He says he knows he’ll do well. “I’m not go­ing to die,” he says. “I know I’ve been prac­tic­ing a lot. This is the re­ward — putting ev­ery­thing I’ve learned on the line.” The bell rings. The fight be­gins. The crowd roars as punches fly. Some­one shouts: “Sam! Sam! Sam!” The fi­nal bell rings. Green steps out of the ring.

He sees the world a lit­tle dif­fer­ently. That’s not just be­cause he’s miss­ing a con­tact lens and a shiner is emerg­ing un­der his right eye. He lost the fight. But he still feels like a win­ner. “Worth it! To­tally worth it,” he says. “This is like the best ex­pe­ri­ence ever.”

PHO­TOS BY FAN ZHEN / CHINA DAILY

White Col­lar Box­ing takes non-box­ers — mostly white-col­lar pro­fes­sion­als — and gives them the chance to punch each other for a cause.

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