Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg

Bankers Get Ready to Rumble at Hedge Fund Fight Night

There is a night each year in Hong Kong when finance industry professionals take a break from trading securities—to trade blows. More than a dozen contenders (who work for banks, brokerages and hedge funds, among others) test their mettle in the boxing ring on "Hedge Fund Fight Nite," which includes a black-tie dinner for spectators. More than just a punch-up, the event aims to raise HK$1 million ($129,000) for charity. Here we give you a ringside seat to the action. Photographs by Justin Chin/Bloomberg

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    Crowds of people gather for Hedge Fund Fight Nite at the Conrad hotel on June 17. The annual tilt started in 2007 and has been held in locations such as the harbor front, upscale hotels and a recreation club.

     

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    Among the 16 contenders (including four women) who fought that night were Nomura vice president Priyesh "Highveld Storm" Manilal, left, and Daniel "Wide Boy" Larner, a relationship manager at Bank of New York Mellon Corp. The fighters commit to months of training before the grand finale.

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    The night before the big fight, Manilal, left, sparred with other Fight Nite participants at a gym in Central, Hong Kong's business district. The 34-year-old South African, who had been training for eight months, said he looked forward to the workout at the end of each day. "It gave me something to keep my mind off everything else for the time being," he said.

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    At the same gym, Daniel Larner was hard at work gearing up for the fight. Larner and Manilal knew ahead of time that they were fighting each other.

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    Larner, center, joined the training program to get fit. The 38-year-old Briton, who is from just outside of London, lost 14 kilograms over 21 weeks of training.

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    On Fight Nite, a staffer displays posters. The signed "Sting Like a Bee" poster of Muhammad Ali was among those sold at auction between rounds of boxing. Proceeds would go to U.S.-based Operation Smile, which funds surgery for children with facial deformities such as cleft lips and cleft palates.

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    Manilal and Larner check their headgear and wrap their hands in protective bands before their scheduled match at 11p.m., the second last bout of the evening. "There was a lot of nervousness and anxiety... because you don't know what to expect," Manilal said.

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    "I didn't feel at all nervous, which is unusual," said Larner, adding that boxing made him sharper and more focused at work. 

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    Back in the Conrad's ballroom, the atmosphere was buzzing with excitement and anticipation. While they waited, guests enjoyed a four-course dinner that featured foie gras terrine and beef tenderloin. Tickets for a table of 12 cost between HK$21,800 and HK$50,000, according to the event website.

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    Manilal, in red, exchanges punches with Larner. Fighters were given three rounds lasting a total of six minutes to defeat their opponents. "I didn't know there was anyone else in the room other than him," Larner said of the fight. "I didn't hear any noise. Just me and him."

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    The crowd went wild as the bankers tried to beat down each other. "All my mates were there across the room," Manilal recalled. "You could hear them cheering, you could hear the energy."

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    Manilal is declared the winner. The two men embrace. Though he lost, Larner said he enjoyed every second of it and "would be stepping in there and doing it again if given the opportunity."  Larner said he was also looking forward to his first drink in nine weeks—perhaps some whiskey.

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    Manilal is congratulated by friends. "It's nice to have won. ... Those six minutes went so fast," said the Nomura executive, who like every bout winner was given a medal. "If I have to name one thing I really got out of this, [it] is fitness, agility. I understand my body a lot more now."