The sun hasn’t yet risen and you get punched in the face.” That, according to April Olivares, is the worst part of training to become a boxer. April, 23, from the Philippines, is among the 12 men and women who have signed up for a special charity event that will see them face each other in the ring this week as part of a ‘white-collar’ boxing fight. It’s a sport that sees professionals with no previous boxing experience train to face each other in a bout.
This amateur version of the sport originated at the renowned Gleason’s Gym in New York, in 1988. Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson are among the legends who trained there. The first white-collar contest was held between Dr Richard Novak, an attorney, and Dr David Lawrence, who held a PhD in English literature. The concept subsequently made its way to Dubai 11 years ago. Sponsored by manpower firm Transguard, it raises cash for Christel House India, which offers education to disadvantaged children.
Learning to Roll With The Punches
April might work for Transguard as a Business Development Consultant, but she didn’t need much persuasion from her boss to sign up as a contestant. She started getting in shape in September and is dedicating an impressive 20 hours a week to training. And though she’s done Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) before, she says boxing is much more challenging. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she says. “You need to think sharper if you do boxing. The hardest thing is the footwork, but it’s challenging mentally and physically.
April’s even been staying with friends close to the KO Gym in Dubai Marina rather than at her home in Karama so she can get to training on time at 6am, seven days a week.
A Big Entrance
While April’s colleagues will be in the audience when she walks into the ring to her chosen song, Light Em Up by Fall Out Boy, there’s one person who’ll be sitting thousands of miles away dreading it. “My mum doesn’t like it!” says April. “But she knows I want to do it. I’m going to send her the video.”
April, who will be fighting under the boxing name ‘Sugar’, has lost 5kg in around five weeks despite loading up on carbs, including sweet potatoes and rice. Because she’s training so much, she eats 2,000 calories a day. “It’s the best cardio I’ve ever done and I’d recommend it to people who want to lose weight,” she says.
Though she hasn’t injured herself so far, April’s worst fear is getting a nosebleed in the ring. “I haven’t had any nosebleeds yet – I want that to happen during the training and not on fight night!”
Cutting Her Teeth
Another contestant, Megan Murray, 28, is not so worried about her nose taking a knock as she is about her teeth, since she’s a dental hygienist. “I tell them to watch my teeth!” she laughs. “But to be honest, I get myself in more trouble out running than boxing, by tripping over.”
Megan, from Philadelphia, USA, had attended a white-collar boxing match and was hooked. “I was like, ‘I want to do that!’ I like the idea that it’s something to work for. You’ll push yourself not to have your butt kicked in front of 1,000 people!”
The Big Slim
Though she was already a gym regular, Megan’s also lost nearly 5kg since she started training and has been trying to lose even more, as organisers had originally paired her up with a smaller opponent. Megan, who says her fiancé Carl Sichtner, 29, is “surprised how much I like punching people”, has had to give up her vegan diet by eating egg whites on a bagel for breakfast. Then she juices fruit and veggies for lunch and dinner. “It’s tough,” she says. “Some of them are rancid but I’ve learned to drink them! I get the recipes online. I use celery, kale, cucumber, green apples… The more you do it, the easier it gets.”
But Megan, who trains five mornings a week and works out alone the other two days, is counting down to her big moment. She’ll walk out as ‘The Machine’, to the song Deuces by Achozen. Neither girl will discover who they’re fighting until a couple of days before the match.
“I’m really excited about the fight,” she says. “When you’re boxing, it’s really easy to zone out what’s going on around you. In a weird way, it’s like meditation. I’m not scared as I’ve trained really hard. If you flop, it’s no one’s fault but your own.”
INFO: Dhs11,000 for a table of 10, including dinner, 7pm Fri 22 Nov, Andalous Ballroom, Habtoor Grand Hotel, Dubai. Alison Keiller at 056 682 4269 or email@example.com
Get In The Ring
Want to try boxing? Here are some top tips from Victor Taumafai, Senior Instructor at KO Gym
1. Make sure you train with a qualified trainer in a reputable gym – do your research, get testimonials from other boxers and watch other people training before you sign up.
2. Sign up with a friend or colleague if you can – it really helps to have someone to share the highs and lows with and to help keep you motivated.
3. Buy a skipping rope and work really hard on your fitness – stamina is everything in boxing.
4. Get in the ring and start sparring as soon as possible – getting punched in the face isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds!
5. Set yourself a training routine that is feasible – and stick to it!
Girls in the Ring
Women boxers who’ve had knock-out success
Scooped the first Olympic women’s boxing gold medal in the flyweight category at the London 2012 Olympics. The sport didn’t become officially recognised until last year.
Irish champion who scooped gold in the lightweight division at the London 2012 Olympics after starting boxing when she was 12.
Daughter of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, Laila has now retired from professional boxing after a successful career, and is a regular on reality TV shows.
Won the Best Actress Oscar for her role as a waitress-turned-boxer in the tragic Million Dollar Baby. She learned how to box at Gleason’s Gym.