The Resurrection of White Collar Boxing
Martin Theobald

White Collar Boxing has its roots in the heart of New York, at the famous Gleason's Gym in the 80's.  Those city workers that used to train at the gym were offered the opportunity to be part of an event, which grew into a monthly spectacle.   By 2004, over 65% of the gym were White Collar boxers.

In the UK, there is a rise in the participation of the sport.  Huge crowds are filling out local nightclubs and arenas to watch groups of fighters that have undertaken 8 weeks of training before stepping in the ring.  One organiser, Ultra White Collar Boxing (UWCB), advertises over 50 event venues on its websites that you can purchase tickets for. 

Says Robyn Johnson, Digital Marketing Executive of UWCB:  
"Director of UWCB Jon Leonard used to run boxing fitness classes in our hometown of Derby, they were held in a nightclub and were one of Derby’s most popular fitness classes. It was half fitness circuit class and half boxing training. It was this class the developed his idea into putting on White Collar Boxing shows for complete beginners which started off in Derby in 2009.  By January 2014 it had expanded successfully into Nottingham and Leicester."   

So what is the fascination, and who is benefitting?

Well, this writer for one was a benefactor.  I myself have taken part in the training and stepped between the ropes.  Why?  The challenge, the thrill of it, and for one night only, looking to be a KO king.  Of course, I didn't manage to knock anyone out (I blame the 16oz gloves) but had an amazing time out of it.  Robyn tells us:  

"We find that people sign up to take part for three key reasons, they have been affected by cancer and want to help raise money for a great cause, they are over weight or looking to loose some weight and get fit and finally they want to learn a new skill and take part in an amazing once in a lifetime event that is on many peoples bucket lists. Of course by expanding into new cities we have more and more people taking part and raising money, explaining the huge rise in Just Giving. We are constantly expanding and new people are hearing about us everyday, we are still seeing huge numbers sign up nationwide!" 

UWCB work closely to find local boxing gyms in the areas where they are providing shows.  They work with the gyms to ensure a strict training regime is in place to assist the participants to be at their best for fight night.  Of course, the gym is benefitting from receiving (in some cases) over 100 people through the doors to start the 8 weeks of training.  Not that all 100 will make it to fight night - there is no slacking in the training, and the numbers soon dwindle.  But of those that make it 8 weeks, there are a dedicated group of combatants that are ready to put on a show.  Sure enough, you can guarantee that some of those that have been trained will sign up with the gym once their 8 weeks are up, putting much needed money through the doors.  All the training is free, just turn up with wraps and gloves and away you go.  There have also been some high profile trainers taking part - recently, former world title challenger Ryan Rhodes opened his gym in Sheffield to train white collar boxers.

So the individual benefits, as well as the gym.  Who else?  Well at my local nightclub they have a show every 3 months.  With over 1,000 people coming through the doors for the event, it no doubt provides more business than they would otherwise be seeing on a Sunday night.  Robyn explains:

"Our Biggest event so far had an attendance of 3,500 people in Coventry at the Ricoh Arena but we are looking to make bigger events up and down the country! "

There is one other huge benefactor from this.  Cancer Research.  Each fighter is asked to get their own sponsorship before fight night.  Typically a minimum of £50 is stated - but many will reach the thousands of pounds through family and friends contributions.  The more events, the more people, the more money raised.  To date through their Just Giving campaign, UWCB have donated over £1.5 million to Cancer Research.  Robyn tells us:

"By the September of 2014 we had expanded into 40 cities and had raised £300,000 on Just giving for Cancer Research UK. It is really from then that the company began to grow and we thought, wow we could really do this everywhere. In the 8 months since then we have raised over £1.4 Million for Cancer Research UK, and this is due to the amazing effort of all the boxers in our now 72 cities across the UK."

Jon Leonard recently picked up the Cancer Research Pioneer of the Year award 2015 at the Flame of Hope Awards - a huge achievement for a man who six years ago was handing out flyers on the streets of Derby.  The cynic may well point out that UWCB themselves are a benefactor.  After all, they are a business, not a charity.  But then, as a business they have found a niche that wasn't being filled elsewhere.  With all the good that is coming from it, they are experiencing a huge boom.  Whether it can last remains to be seen, but in the meantime their hard work is benefitting plenty.

Many thanks to Robyn Johnson for her input.  To find out more about UWCB events or sign up yourself, go to:

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