White Collar Boxing? Sure, you know about that, a bunch of posh boys, bankers probably, slogging it out in front of their middle management peers at an anonymous black tie gala somewhere in the Square Mile. While, yes, that is an accurate picture of some eveningís entertainment, itís increasingly becoming the exception rather than the rule.
Stick N Move boxing took a trip to a White Collar show in London recently and there was not a pinstripe suit to be seen!
White Collar Boxing London is an organisation who offer the chance for individuals to train like the pros over a 10 week program, culminating in a 3 round fight against an opponent from the training group. We caught up with the man in charge, Scott Borthwick, before the event.
Q. What is your background in boxing and have you ever fought yourself at any level?
I boxed from the age of 10, i was a footballer growing up but always boxed to get extra fitness. I first started at Fisher but i was lazy as i prefered footballer to black eyes, I sparred a bit and enjoyed the buzz of being in the ring where I went on to box for Samuel Montague and got into training/coaching side from there.
Q. When did you first hear about the White Collar concept and what inspired you to start WCB London?
I opened my own boxing gym in 2010 and took things from there. Having been to a few shows before i had seen that people were being stitched up with matchups etc.. I didnít want to get involved as itís reputation was failing. I went from taking boxing classes to getting light sparring involved as was pleased with the boxers progress so i put a show on and was determind to make it a cracker for both boxers and spectators. After the first show i recieved great feedback from both boxers and spectators. So i decided to take it to the next level. I had a huge following from my gym and personal training clients which was growing rapidly.
Q. Who are your typical participants and how are they drawn to give WCB a try?
Our participants vary from White collar professions such as bankers and lawyers to Police Officers and Fire Fighters. Many come to cheer on friends and collegues and end up signing up to give it a go foor themselves. I also get loads of emails and messages through out the week from people who have be told by a friend or have been given a leaflet by our promo girls out walking the streets. We have such a range of people wanting to get involved we hold trial sessions to see if we think match ups are suitable. Each contender will always be matched with someone of the same weight and ability.
Q. Have many participants stuck with the boxing training after trying WCB?
Many who sign up for our 10 week camp before they box on the show still attend my weekly boxing classes. Boxing is a bug, once you have boxed itís hard to just go back to normal gym life. We have around 80 willing competitors on our books who regularly attend sessions when work allows them too.
Q. What similarities can be drawn from WCB and the amateur and pro game in the UK?
Many people have always wanted to try boxing but for some reason or another have never done so. We make this night as close as it possibly can be to a pro show. Each boxer will make their way to the ring to their choice cheered on by hundreds of chanting fans, however amateur and WCB rounds are 2 minutes long with professionals being 3 minutes.
Q. What would you say to someone thinking of giving it a try?
Do it, do it, do it. You will never regret it, itís something that everyone has to try. Whether it be a one off or a regular thing throughout the year. I pride myself on making sure all contenders experience the buzz of a lifetime.
The event took place in Camden, and credit must go to the organisers for the professional atmosphere the fighters would have encountered. The crowd was mostly made up of supporters of the various contestants (selling tickets for the event is a pre-requisite of participating). This is actually a shrewd move as it means that not only are the evenings well attended, but support remains constant throughout the event.
We first met Bryan, a young man at the end of his first training cycle, ready to step through the ropes in his debut bout. His day job is in security and his physical background was cross country running and personal training before his laced up the gloves.
ìIíve always wanted to give it a go, he said, when asked to sum up what attracted him to program, and I’ve sparred against my opponent in training already. There is a rivalry, but it’s a friendly one.
Indeed the changing rooms before the fights were a relaxed environment. Granted rivals werenít engaging in group hugs, but it was easy to sense that a powerful bond of mutual respect had been forged between a group who have all endured the same training regime.
In a sentiment familiar to many boxers, it was the destination as much as the journey that was important for Bryan. ìThe training has been great, people have been really supportive. But Iím glad that itís been building to something, rather than just training for the sake of it.
Stick N Move left him to his final preparations and spoke briefly with Vicky, his partner. What changes had she seen in Bryan over the 10 weeks, and what was her opinion of his choice to start boxing? Well, as is probably understandable, she was not a huge fan of the idea of watching a loved one in a fight. I don’t like violence at all, heís a cross country runner really, but this is something he’s always wanted to do. I have noticed a change in him since he started training though, physically he’s developed and he seems more confident and happy.
Vicky was expecting a more intimidating environment than the one she encountered, she agreed she was happier about it all now she was actually there. Indeed she was not alone in the crowd as someone who had probably not witnessed live boxing before, this leant the spectators an enthusiastic voice as each fight was a new experience.
The fight itself was an impulsive affair, technique remembered and discarded in equal measure. Most first time fighters find themselves in two confrontations at once. The first is against the man standing opposite them, the second, a battle between their brain and their adrenaline levels.
When time was up, Bryan was declared the victor and his vocal support were delighted. We caught up with him after the match to get his reaction. I probably should have jabbed more, but there is so much going through your head. The sparring is totally different though, it doesnít prepare you for that. The smile across his face undeniably belonged to a man who had enjoyed his nights work so we left him to celebrate with his friends and family around him.
If Bryanís plans had culminated in this evening, Stick N Move met another fighter whose vision extended far beyond the next fight.
Naila was a female boxer in her 2nd match, shattering the myth that the only women welcome at these sorts of events are the ring girls. Her fight was arguably the best technical display of the evening, both female boxers displayed a maturity, calm and faithfulness of technique which was a joy to behold. Working behind jabs and tight guards they contested the 3 rounds keenly, taking turns to command the centre of the ring.
After the fight, we asked if the exploits of our female Olympians at London 2012 had an effect in the gyms they attended? Definitely, Naila replied, you used to see only one or two girls in the gym but thatís changing. There seem to be many more coming along to try it.
ìNot training just doesnít feel right, I always want to be learning, improving.
Her goals at present involve the domestic amateur scene, but who knows what success there could lead to. She was certainly inspired by the taster sheíd had that night.
Lastly, we met a young fighter called Laurie, who was as good an advert for the redemptive powers of boxing as you could hope to meet. In his youth, by his own admission, he fell in with the wrong crowd, but two and a half years ago he began sparring on Saturday mornings. Through this small discipline he had matured and developed into a man, a man whose eyes lit up when he described his passion for boxing.
ìI love it, itís such a buzz, thereís no feeling like it. This will be my third fight and itís great to think about the fact that itís just you in there. I have a four year old son and I just want him to be proud.
Laurieís fight was unfortunately cut short by a shoulder injury on the night, but to suggest that this was a failing is to misunderstand the nature of victory when it comes to boxing. The changes he had made in his life, just getting to the point of stepping through the ropes was a battle, and in that contest he had won. A points decision on one Friday night may fade, but the feeling of success, through discipline and sheer hard work lasts much longer.
White Collar boxing is not what you think it may be, some do it for that one night, in front of their friends and family, others see it as a spring board to other things. But whatever their motivation, they share a common goal, to challenge themselves, to know if they have what it takes, I canít think of a better environment in which to do it.