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White-collar boxing has its beginnings at Gleason's Gym in New York City. Gym owner Bruce Silverglade began organizing informal fights between the white-collar workers of his clientele in the late 1980s, which later developed into regular monthly events. After developing into a regular monthly event, the sport came to prominence in the mid-1990s under the organization of boxing promoter Alan Lacey. By 2004 over 65% of Gleason's Gym membership was from a white-collar background, compared to 10% in the early 1990s. The increase of membership from this demographic has been credited with maintaining the profitability of boxing gyms in the US and UK.
Event management consultant Alan Lacey, who co-promoted the Gary Stretch vs. Chris Eubank WBO middleweight championship bout in 1991, belatedly discovered boxing training at the age of 45. Captivated and motivated by the discipline over the following years, he started training under former European champion Jimmy McDonnell and alongside two-time Olympian and world title challenger Adrian Dodson, who having spent most of his youth at Gleason’s Gym in New York suggested Lacey to fulfill his ambition to box, even at the age of 48, and arranged for him to visit Gleason's and box there. On the flight back to London, Lacey decided white-collar boxing could flourish in London.
In July 2000, the inaugural white-collar boxing event, "Capital Punishment", in collaboration with Gleason's owner Bruce Silverglade, saw a team of Wall Street bankers fly to London to compete at Broadgate Arena in London, generating massive interest and media coverage. Lacey boxed twice on the night and subsequently devoted his time and energy to developing the sport exclusively since. Over 100 sold-out events have followed "Capital Punishment", including “Celebrity Boxing” on the BBC in 2003 featuring, among others, Les Dennis and Ricky Gervais, and raising more than UK₤1.5 million for various charities.
The Real Fight Club's first gym opened in the heart of London in 2006, offering a sort of boxing experience. Throughout the recent recession, surprisingly the gym became even busier, providing an outlet to vent stress and frustration for those hit by the banking crash. At one point it counted 550 active members drawn from the banking and legal professions. However, since the close of the Real Fight Club's gym, the organisation lost ground to new competing white-collar organisations in London like Gym, Cityboxer, Fight Nights, Ringtone Heath and Fitness, and White Collar Boxing London, as well as other gyms and programmes in the UK, such as Zero to Hero White Collar Boxing of Bristol.
In the Asia–Pacific region
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The many bouts in the Asia–Pacific region are usually contested under WWCBA (see below) sanctioning.
Prominent promoters of white-collar boxing include Vanda Promotions (Hong Kong and Singapore).
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In 2001, Lacey and Bruce Silverglade co-founded the International White Collar Boxing Association (IWCBA), the first and to this day main advisory and sanctioning governing body in the field, designed to regulate the bouts with a focus on safety. The IWCBA uses the same weight divisions of professional boxing and awards a belt to the champions of each weight category. Matchmaking of non-title bouts is based on level of experience as much as actual weight. It also rigorously requires the presence of an experienced doctor, an anesthetist, and a paramedic unit at ringside as well as thorough medical checks. Over 1,500 bouts have been sanctioned by the IWCBA over the years, with zero injuries aside from bloody noses. IWBCA-sanctioned bouts are predominant in the UK and US.
In 2007, the World White Collar Boxing Association (WWCBA) was founded to London, UK, to regulate and promote the sport throughout the world, but is principally active in the Asia–Pacific region. The WWCBA provides a common platform in the form of rules and guidelines allowing boxers to become ranked nationally, regionally and globally and to contest for championship titles. In 2008 the WWCBA sanctioned 9 events throughout the world. The WWCBA works with other boxing authorities such as the amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) to ensure strong standards.
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Bouts are usually three 2-minute rounds ("3×2" format), unlike the longer three 3-minute rounds (3×3) in the Amateur Code for men and 4×2 format for women. The IWCBA bouts have traditionally been "no decision" draws (ties) in absence of a knock-out, while WWCBA ranking system requires a win-loss decision for all bouts.
The first large gala events included the Boodles Boxing Ball series attended by Prince Harry as well as the "Hedge Fund Fight Nite" raising over $200,000 for charity both is initially organized/staged by The Real Fight Club.
In 2005 a purely non-profit black-tie gala at the London Hilton organized by The David Adams Leukaemia Appeal Fund & Mr King with more than 950 dinner guests raised over £100,000 for The Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Campaign on the night. It was the largest event of its kind until 2013, see below.
In April 2009 a gala at Suntec Singapore Exhibition and Convention Centre staged by Vanda Promotions had more than 900 black-tie guests.
On Saturday, 18 July 2009, the Channel Island of Jersey held its first white-collar-boxing event. Nine fights were watched by over 600 paying, black-tied guests at the Hotel de France, raising around £15,000 for local charities.
On 17 November 2012, the first season fight night of Zero to Hero was held at the City Academy in Bristol and was attended by over 1200 guests, making it the largest event of white-collar boxing to have taken place of this kind in the world to date. Thirty-two contenders competed, facing up to three two-minute rounds each with eight bouts being won by the Blue Camp and eight by the Red Camp. All bouts ended in a decision either by points or TKO.
On 13 October 2012, Neilson Promotions, a Swindon-based white-collar-boxing promotor, put on the largest show of its kind to date. A venue verified attendance of 1398 watched ten contests at the Oasis Leisure Centre in Swindon with the main event seeing Dave 'Bam Bam' Gregory retain his NP Heavyweight title against Rich 'The Tank' Loveday over three rounds. This was surpassed in March 2014 when a crowd of nearly 2,000 fight fans saw 'Sugar' Shawn Grant defeat ex-pro Phill Day to gain the Vacant Cruiserweight Title.
On the 20th April 2013, Vanda Promotions (part of Vanda Sports Group) held its twenty-fourth event in Singapore making the series the longest consecutive white-collar boxing in the history of the sport. A verified attendance of 1,943 attended the black-tie event at the Raffles Convention Centre which brought total attendance over the five-year history of the events to 15,491. The event also saw Vanda move past the $2 million mark for funds raised for children's charities in Asia and for the continued funding of the Vanda Wing at Children's Surgical Centre in Cambodia. Vanda was also the recipient of the "Promoter of the year award" for the fourth consecutive year from the World White Collar Boxing Association (WWCBA).
Sixteen-ounce gloves are standard in the white-collar-boxing ring in order to protect competitors from heavy blows and hand injuries. Some gyms permit 14 oz gloves as well for lighter weight classes and for female competitors. Moreover, headgear, groin protectors, and mouthguards are essential requirements inside the ring.
On 21 June 2014, white-collar boxer Lance Ferguson-Prayogg collapsed following a fight at The Forum nightclub in Nottingham, England. Paramedics were called, and he was taken to hospital, but died the next day.
- McAuley, Tom (12 May 2000). "White men can box". The Economist. Retrieved 24 Jun 2014.
- Hindo, Brian; Cohn, Laura (28 Nov 2004). "Out of the Office, Into the Ring". Business Week. Retrieved 24 Jun 2014.
- "Boxer dies after boxing bout at The Forum". Nottingham Post. Nottingham Post. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
- "Tributes to 'white-collar' boxer Lance Ferguson-Prayogg". BBC website. BBC. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
- London Evening Standard, 17 Oct 2003 (page 3): "Fight club for City boys "
- USA Today article
- BBC article on Real Fight Club and criticism from the British Boxing Board of Control
- Independent article on white-collar boxers risking injury
- Daily Telegraph article on Boodles Boxing Ball attended by Princes Harry and William
- The London Paper on white-collar boxing
- The Independent, Sunday 9 July 2000, "White-collar warriors will live out their fantasies as Broadgate prepares for "Capital Punishment"
- The Evening Standard, Friday 14 July 2000, "The City Fight Club"
- The Times, Saturday 15 July 2000, "City brokers trade blows with Wall Street",
- The Telegraph.co.uk, July 2002, "Sport Relief wants to see you on July 12",
- The Daily Mail, Sunday 20 October 2002, "Is this celebrity match really what we want on tv?",
- London Evening Standard – The Gloves are on – London's Boxing Boom, 25 March 2011
- Fight Club (novel) and Fight Club (film), partial media inspiration for the white-collar-boxing trend