Hedge Fund Boxers Tame Animal Instincts in H.K. Fight Night

Stephen Taw and Mark O'Reilly
Stephen Taw, left, and Mark O'Reilly spar during a training session at the Jab Mixed Martial Arts Studio in Hong Kong, China. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

Anthony “The Tank” Carango had more to celebrate than a victory in the ring at tonight’s sixth annual Hedge Fund Fight Nite in Hong Kong. His second child was born just days earlier.

Bikini-clad models and black-tie wait staff with trays of beer and wine welcomed 600 spectators to the fight, where no sign of looming woes in the financial industry lingered. Carango, 40, executive director at Nomura, who attended West Point and went on to man the turret of an M1 Abrams tank defeated Craig “El Toro” Barnish in the second round of the evening.

“She insulted my manhood, and told me if I didn’t have the ’guts’ to sign up, then I should just keep my trap shut about it forever ” Carango wrote in his program biography of first mentioning the idea to his wife. “By the time you read this, she will have just given birth to our second child in two years so I figured that if I didn’t do something painful myself, I would never hear then end of that.”

The Eurekahedge Asian Hedge Fund Index returned 2.3 percent in September, the best performer among five regional indexes, based on preliminary figures. Investors have withdrawn more than $440 million this year from funds in the region, where at least 70 hedge funds have closed as equity-focused strategies depressed performance. The index has returned 3.9 percent this year through September compared with the 4.3 percent advance by the global industry gauge.

The 14 finalists have been training at Jab Mixed Martial Arts Studio in the heart of the business district twice a week for five months. In addition to the bi-weekly sessions of sparring, punching bag work, crunches and rope-skipping, most have been doing training four to five times a week, and in some cases twice a day. The finalists were culled from 70 hopefuls and will be paired off for seven bouts of three two-minute rounds each.

Operation Smile

The event at the Indian Recreation Club in Happy Valley, organized by IronMonger Events Ltd., seeks to raise HK$1 million ($129,022) for Operation Smile, which funds surgery for children with facial deformities, and Operation Breakthrough, which combats crime and juvenile delinquency in low-income and immigrant communities. Standard tables of 12 cost HK$24,000 with the ringside version pulling in HK$50,000.

Steve Taw, the oldest competitor at age 53 in the history of Hong Kong’s sixth annual Hedge Fund Fight Nite, competed four years after his son’s victory in the same charity event.

“I’m the only one ever following in his son’s footsteps,” said the white-haired Taw, known in the ring as “The Wizard of Wanchai” after the commercial area of bars and clubs made popular in “The World of Suzie Wong,” the 1960 William Holden movie, before the event.

‘In it to win it’

His son Thomas, 27, who sports the same square jawline and broad wry smile, works in electronic trading at Macquarie Group Ltd. He said gets more nervous watching his father, a director at South Ocean Management Ltd., fight than he does stepping into the ring himself. The senior Taw said before the event that while he’s “in it to win it,” his focus will be on putting on a good show when facing off against Blair “The Bear” Crichton, an associate vice president in business development at HSBC.

“Boxing is a sport; it’s to be practiced and mastered,” he said before the event. “Not a chance that I want to stand up there swinging wildly for six minutes. That’s for outside the chip shop back home in the U.K. after the pubs turn out.”

Barnish, 30, co-founder of BAH Partners Ltd., a recruitment firm specializing in information technology workers at investment banks, said conquering the headstrong nature that proffered his ring name has been the biggest challenge.

“My first reaction on getting hit was to lash out and counter,” the sandy-haired native of England’s south coast said before the event. “The hardest thing has been accepting getting punched, then using your head to react instead of animal instinct.”

Animals Sport

His mother wishes he wasn’t getting hit at all, calling it a “sport for animals,” he said. With co-workers, friends and his girlfriend supportive, he expects his parents to come around after he walks out of the fight without major injury.

Andrea “Glynn-sanity” Glynn, 28, and Danielle “Steely” Midalia, 30, will face off in the only women’s bout of the evening. They are the final two of 10 women who tried out for the event this spring.

“It’s certainly portrayed as a brute sport, but that is far from the truth,” said Midalia, the creative manager at The Cat Street Gallery, before the event. “You don’t need to be a beefy boxer to participate. Boxing requires agility, fortitude and determination, things that all women are capable of.”

Midalia, a long-distance runner, and Glynn, who has played volleyball, soccer and tennis, both said the mental challenges of boxing far outweigh the physical.


“After a long day at the office, it’s one thing to jump on the treadmill and another thing to step into the ring,” said Glynn, who works in fixed-income sales at Bank of Montreal, before the event. “You really have to show up to every session with your A-game, otherwise you’ll get punched in the face.”

The financial industry has been taking its own punches amid shrinking equity volumes. Bank of America Corp., BNP Paribas SA, Deutsche Bank AG, Macquarie, Morgan Stanley, Nomura Holdings Inc., and UBS AG are all shedding jobs.

Equity volumes dropped 21 percent globally year-on-year in September and 14 percent year-on-year for the first nine months of 2012, according to the World Federation of Exchanges.

Given the downturn, making time for training while managing a more challenging workload has been difficult, said Mark “Slugger” O’Reilly, 36, a managing director at recruitment firm Astbury Marsden. Lessons learned from the discipline required for boxing translate outside the ring, said the former Australian rules football player from Tasmania state.

‘The Razor’

“It’s all about executing your plan,” he said before the event. “You have to keep composure regardless of what’s going on around you.”

George “The Razor” Radford, a consultant at property investment company IP Global, faced off against O’Reilly after going along to the event last year, having one too many drinks, and telling everyone that would listen that he’d be in the ring in 2012. Not one to go back on his word, he responded when the organizers followed up, the 29-year-old rugby player said.

“I’m not going to lie to you, it’s been bloody exhausting and I really can’t wait for the whole thing to be over” he said before the event. “I can’t wait to stop thinking about Mark O’Reilly.”

HSBC, Nomura

Other fighters in tonight’s event included Nicolas Boulay, a derivatives broker at Louis Capital Markets; Carango of Nomura; Adam Gazal, a managing partner at National Australia Bank Ltd.; Grant Livingston, an executive director in convertible bonds at JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Brad Moreland, a director in prime services at HSBC Holdings Plc; Richard Rouse, an account manager at HSBC, and Andrew Wylde, head of sales and operations at Hatstand Consulting.

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