Put some punch into a career

David Hodge, right, takes on Will Doomagee at the Ivy ballroom in Sydney. Doomagee won the fight. | Photo: Milos Lekovic

White-collar boxing helps some executives stay sharp in their professional lives.

By Penny Pryor

David Hodge ASA has dealt with his fair share of stressful situations.

As co-founder of accounting and financial planning firm Thirdview Financial he has managed the rapid expansion of his own firm, which now employs more than 12 people.

He has also worked for some large financial services organisations.

But none of that compares with the level of stress and exhilaration Hodge experienced when he decided to take up white-collar boxing.

Corporate, or white-collar, boxing involves an intensive, usually 12-week training period learning how to box, before participants are matched with another contestant of similar ability for a real bout.

It started in the UK more than 10 years ago and has been gaining popularity in Australia and Asia over the past five years.

It’s not a ramshackle fight club resembling those in the movie of the same name, but a structured, organised process.

In Australia, fights are endorsed by one of the main amateur boxing sanctioning bodies – Boxing NSW or the League Boxing Inc (NSW) – and usually consist of three two-minute rounds. Participants wear 16-ounce gloves along with protective headgear.

The bouts are scored by judges and overseen by referees and the evenings raise money for the boxers’ chosen charities.

Hodge has had two fights so far and is one win for one loss. He originally took up boxing to improve his fitness and after a few years wanted to take it to the next level, which is when he started white-collar boxing.

“It was the most stressful thing I’d ever done,” Hodge says, adding that after the fight was over, it was also “the most rewarding thing” he’s ever done.

Hakan Saglam, a telecommunications pricing consultant for Telstra.

Hakan Saglam, a telecommunications pricing consultant for Telstra.

Accounting may seem incongruous with pugilism, Hodge says, but this is not necessarily the case.

“The concept of training – and training up to six days a week – and the structured platform, fits quite well with a lot of what we do,” he says. “Accountants by nature are very systematic and process-driven people.”

Tomas Vysokai is a former professional boxer and Asia-Pacific titleholder, and has also been involved in martial arts for 15 years.

He trains the white-collar boxers at Corporate Fight Gym in Sydney, along with renowned coach Johnny Lewis.

He sees all sorts of professions climb the steps of the gym to take the challenge.

“I get lawyers, accountants, stockbrokers,” Vysokai says. “It’s just something new [for them], something they haven’t done, because they have been busy with other things.”

After an initial few weeks of technical and fitness training, the participants enter the ring for their first experience of sparring, or practice bouts.

At this point some realise boxing may not be their thing.

“We have one or two people who, at the beginning, once they get hit in the face, realise it’s not for them,” Vysokai says.

“But I find most of them really step up and they train their hardest. Most of them, they realise if they want to win they need to put 100 per cent into it.”

Knockouts are rare in amateur boxing and Vysokai stresses that he focuses on keeping the boxers safe in the ring and finding appropriately matched opponents, to ensure nobody is overpowered or put at risk during a fight.

Hakan Saglam is a telecommunications pricing consultant for Telstra and has been involved in three white-collar fights. He says the experience has taught him important life lessons that are useful in his professional life.

“It actually changes your whole outlook,” Saglam says. “When I used to conduct workshops and facilitate meetings I used to get really nervous, especially standing up in front of a small crowd.

“Public speaking was one of my very worst fears. Since I started boxing and especially having a fight in front of a large crowd, that really helped me become more confident.”

Having had two fights and realised the amount of stress he’d put his family through during the process, Hodge has hung up his boxing gloves. However, he says he would be more than happy for any of his Thirdview accountants to have a go.

“I really enjoyed it, but they’d have to be interested in boxing because it’s a pretty terrifying prospect,” he says.

Saglam, who is in his early 40s and has had a few knee injuries, says he may have reached his physical limitations.

“My mind says do it, do it, but the body says something else,” he says. “It’s the best feeling ever.

“I really can’t compare it with anything – all that adrenalin, the nerves. It gets you on such a high, regardless of winning or losing. I have never really experienced anything like it and it gets pretty addictive.”

Saglam has now turned his hand to training others at the Corporate Fight Gym, arguably a less hazardous way to be involved in the sport. 

In the ring

The cost of a 12-week program starts at about A$495, which includes a three-month gym membership, equipment such as gloves, T-shirts and wraps, and an intensive training program.

Participants are usually required to sell a number of tables at the final boxing event.

For more information see www.corporatefighter.com.au

This article is from the September 2013 issue of INTHEBLACK magazine.

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