'Work Hard, Play Hard' - it's the maxim of many a stock broker and company executive. Yet a growing number of young high flyers in London and other cities around the world are taking this notion to another level. After slogging through long days at the office, they make their way to the gym; not for your usual cross-trainer, spinning class or leisurely sauna, though. Instead, they don boxing gloves and learn the tricks of one of the less gentile sports: boxing. It is being dubbed 'white collar boxing' and London holds a regular event called 'Carpe Diem' that is drawing ever bigger crowds and a seemingly endless stream of young jet-setters prepared to get their faces, and possibly their egos, bruised. The sport is not without its dangers, however, and in June 2014 a 32 year old fighter at a bout in Nottingham in England died after collapsing at the end of the bout . The death of Lance Ferguson-Prayogg, the unfortunate Nottingham contestant, has drawn attention to the fact that white collar boxing is, as yet, a completely unregulated and unlicensed sport. From stock-brokers pummelling each other to celebrities like Ricky Gervais, a British comedian, and Grant Bovey, a film producer, fighting to raise money, the white collar events fall into a legal limbo between the the professional and amateur worlds of boxing, both of which are regulated.
The idea of white-collar boxing comes from America where, in 1988 at Gleason's Gym in Brookly, NY, a lawyer and an academic fought a bout at what had been until then a solidly working class venue. In 2000, Gleason's brought the event to London and it has grown ever since. Now the phenomenon is sprouting its own specialised services like Scott Borthwick's 10-week programme to help aspiring boxers to get ready for their fights. The workouts are free but every contender has to sell 25 tickets at GBP 25 each to family, colleagues and friends to come and watch the three minute events. Borthwick's company, White Collar Boxing London, stages 10 events a year, including 'Carpe Diem'.
The boxing events by and large take place in relatively salubrious venues and always have medics and trained referees in attendance. The fighters wear head protection and larger, softer 16 oz gloves and the bouts are a set of three two minutes rounds, rather than open ended contest. Yet there has been much debate online and in industry circles about the need to formalise white-collar boxing's legal framework and make sure that injury, or even death, are avoided at all costs. Some have suggested stricter medical examinations, upper age limits, paramedics and GPs ringside and more referee interventions. In the meantime, however, white-collar boxing will continue to draw crowds of enthusiasts looking for a new level of adrenaline rush.
Andrew Testa attended a number of fights at London's Irish Club where spirits, and booze, flowed liberally.