Hedge Fund Fight Puts Women, Bankers in H.K. Boxing Ring

I won my first boxing match and I’m hooked. It’s going to be days before I come down from this high.

The rush of stepping out in front of 550 screaming friends, colleagues and work contacts, entering a boxing ring for six excruciating minutes and emerging victorious tops anything I have ever experienced.

My “Rocky” moment came at the seventh annual Hedge Fund Fight Nite on May 30, a black-tie charity boxing event organized by the financial services industry of Hong Kong in a custom tent at the Indian Recreation Club in Happy Valley.

The most striking part for me was the moment our match ended, before the winner was announced. The months of preparation and competition dissolved into respect for another person who has just given her all in a way only the two of you understand.

The money raised goes to Operation Smile, which funds surgery for children with facial deformities, and Operation Breakthrough, a program that combats crime and juvenile delinquency in low-income and immigrant communities.

This year’s event staged eight fights of three two-minute rounds each and raised HK$300,000 ($38,650) from an auction and raffle. Tickets to the event ranged from HK$22,800 for a 12-person standard table to HK$50,000 for the ringside version. Over the years, the event has raised $500,000, according to its organizers.

Although betting was not officially sanctioned, considering the appetite for risk among the crowd, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that a few friendly wagers were placed.

Boxing Bug

I’m not the only one bitten by the boxing bug. “I’d do it again,” said Ash ‘The Bash’ Dale, chief marketing officer at Mirae Asset Global Investments, who lost his men’s bout to Dominic ‘The Daddy’ Smith, Area sales manager for HSBC Expat. “The training and the aim has provided a real focus for me over the past four months. The challenge has got me in the best shape of my life.’’

Richie ‘Ricardo’ Gifford, a premier wealth manager at HSBC defeated Jorge ‘El Toro’ Marrero, chief operating officer at Execution Noble (HK) Ltd., continuing HSBC’s undefeated streak.

Those egging on the pugilists included Tobias Bland, chief executive officer of Enhanced Investment Products, Anthony Byrne, Asia-Pacific head of prime finance for Deutsche Bank AG. and Zoltan Feledy, director in electronic trading at Daiwa Capital Markets.

Punching Bag

My journey into the ring started when I reported on last year’s competition. Until then, I’d never thrown or taken a punch and generally thought of boxing as the bloody, brawling cousin of martial arts. Everyone I interviewed for that story raved about the technicality and discipline required. So when the opportunity came four months ago to cross the line from journalist observer to participant, I jumped.

There’s nothing like your first boxing training session to show you just how unfit you are. Four women turned up that day and within a few weeks, one had dropped out, meaning one of the remaining three wouldn’t get matched. At 55 kilos (121 pounds) I knew my chances of getting selected were good: one woman weighed 52 kilos and the other tipped the scales at 66 kilos.

I stepped up my regime to typically twice a day, mixing the rope-skipping, intervals, punching bag work, sparring and crunches with yoga, running and hiking.

Dress Sizes

Though my weight didn’t fluctuate during my four months training, I dropped two dress sizes from a six to a two.

The focus required topped any yoga meditation I’d done. Digging for reserves of non-existent energy pushed me further mentally than any distance running event. And the adrenaline of taking, returning or blocking a punch trumped previous thrills experienced skydiving and bungee jumping.

My guy friends in the program were great training partners, yet I couldn’t learn what I needed by sparring with them, so I sought out other women I’d met at our gym, JAB.

Luckily, I made pals with Tricia Yap, who won the very first women’s bout at Hedge Fund Fight Nite in 2011. She became my most frequent training buddy and ultimately my corner man, shouting advice after every punch I threw.

Bikini Fit

Yap did what so many people dream of but never do. A few months after her fight, she gave up her IT project manager job at PricewaterhouseCoopers to follow her passion. She is now a partner in Bikini Fit, a female-only outdoor fitness program in Hong Kong.

To any woman considering entering a fight or taking up boxing, Yap has the following advice: “Put your insecurities and fears aside and just do it. Women are so mentally strong but they are so conscious of what they feel are their weaknesses. They need to apply that same mental strength to saying ‘I’m going to look past this fear and just do it and have the time of my life.’”

Because Hedge Fund Fight Nite doesn’t allow boxers back a second year, I’ve already started looking for other amateur events. I’ve every intention of getting back into that ring.

Muse highlights include Scott Reyburn on the art market, Martin Gayford on European art shows, Elin McCoy on wine and Jeremy Gerard on U.S. theater.

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