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In Defense of White Collar Boxing

BY Peter Wood ON July 07, 2008
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White-Collar Boxing is a form of boxing where men and women in white-collar professions train to fight at special events. Most have no previous experience of boxing.

If two weekend warriors want to wallop each other, let them.  If they want to play war, let them.  If they want to break each other’s nose, let them.  Allow them their fatal attraction.

Is there a problem here?

“Yes,” says Joseph Bruno, currently the New York Senate Majority Leader.

“White-collar boxing, while it’s well-intentioned, fun, and appears to be very safe because of the way it’s monitored, apparently there’s recognition we must have some rules because it’s growing in popularity, and it could be an accident waiting to happen.”

Bruno, interestingly, was a former Army light-heavyweight boxing champion in Korea.

This past November, Ron Scott Stevens, Chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission received a complaint about a white-collar show in Huntington, Long Island. It claimed this white-collar show “wasn’t properly sanctioned” and the boxing was stopped.

Stevens said, “State law allows professional boxing licensed by the commission, with exceptions for military and scholastic boxing programs, as well as amateur boxing and martial arts regulated by sanctioning organizations that the commission knows adhere to safety and health standards.”

“White-collar boxing falls outside of that at the present time,” he said.

“We don’t want to see anybody seriously hurt. We want to make sure that white-collar events are surrounded by competent people,” Stevens said. “At the present time white-collar boxing is not dead in the water. They do have the ability to get their events sanctioned by USA Boxing.”

Even so, the New York State Athletic Commission last November banned white-collar boxing shows, since it occupies a gray area between licensed professional and sanctioned amateur bouts.

One influential lawmaker is currently drafting legislation to move white-collar boxing into the realm of “regulated sporting events” which normally requires physical exams for athletes and a doctor at ringside.

“Anything having to do with safety is fine with me,” says Bruce Silverglade, owner of the famed Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, who is eager to get his program up and running—but not at the expense of injuries.

Many white-collar boxers fear the potential problem they face is not physical injury but over-legislation and political posturing.

They feel over-legislation might just suck the spirit out of their sport and kill it.  “Save us from our politicians’ cruel kindness,” muttered one disgruntled white-collar athlete, while pummeling a heavy bag in Gleason’s Gym.   “They’re all political hacks dictating to us from inside their tight, white shirts.”

Many white-collar boxers feel that the real reason for the recent political intervention is not safety, or civic responsibility, but money.

Ronny C, a white-collar boxer submitted this blog Oct 28, 2007 17:05:

“Keep the Government out of people’s private business!

We can all agree upon a set of standards and DECIDE for ourselves if we want to participate in something.

After I quit boxing, I got busy--education, marriage & kids.  Now I’m back and I work out a little & do some coaching.  I've put some kids in tournaments & the Golden Gloves. I even do some sparring with kids half my age. I’m having fun. We don't all play golf, we don't all want to sit on our backsides & get fat. I'm considering competing again. I’m in perfect shape & it's my business if I do. The government has no business telling me what I may or may not engage in. Period.”

The sport first came to prominence in mid-1990s New York. Many professional people joined previously blue-collar gyms like Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn and Church Street in Manhattan. According to a 2004 Business Week article, by that year over 65% of Gleason's membership was from a white-collar background. The same article said that 70% of the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood were white-collar boxers. Boxing had typically been viewed as a working-class activity – to escape the ghetto - but the growth of white-collar boxing has seen a middle and upperclass influx into the game. Many are prepared to risk a gruelling work-out regimine in order to compete in organized bouts that are often well attended.

White-collar boxing--an oxymoron--like civil war, jumbo shrimp and deregulation law-- started making money.

One white-collar boxer, at Church Street Gym, recently said, “White-collar boxing was becoming profitable, and all of a sudden, here comes the New York State Athletic Commission with its hands out.”

White-collar boxing is, indeed, becoming more lucrative.  What is its appeal?

For some, Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn is a stink, a thudding noise, a quality of strength, a pit, a moan, a light, a dream, a poem.  For others, it’s a colorful and exotic way to lose weight.  For others, it’s simple entertainment—and they are the entertainment.  And for others, it is, perhaps, therapeutic—a cathartic way to get healthy.

Boxing can be the expectorant which allows a fighter to cough up the clotted, yellow phlegm of his, or her, soul.

“If I wasn’t a white-collar boxer, I’d be walking down the street throwing grenades into people’s faces,” quipped a young Wall Street executive.  “My wife says I’m healthier  since I’ve been hitting the bags, and working out at the gym.”

Perhaps white-collar boxing allows an adult who wouldn’t—or couldn’t—fight as a kid, to now put on the gloves and duke-it-out.  Perhaps it gives them a second shot at their youth. They can finally sow their wild-oats in the ring.  They might not be terribly good, but that’s not the point—they can become the contender, the champion, or the hero they had always dreamed about.  Sophisticated attorneys, educated Wall Street executives, and pretty actresses can, for once in their life, throw down.  Friends and family cheer them on in their noble pursuit.

What could be more invigorating, inspirational or life enhancing?

White-collar boxing is the brain-child of Bruce Silverglade, owner of Gleason’s Gym. For the past 17 years, Silverglade has organized white-collar bouts at his club, but more recently, he has been packing them in for $1,600 weekend fantasy camps. “Boomers fly in from around the globe to live the life of a pugilist on the verge of a big prize.”

For most, the attraction lies in the authenticity of the physical conditioning routine. At a boxing gym, a real trainer will not only get you into shape but show you proper boxing technique.

Coaching boxing is sculpting beauty into a body and brain.  When a fighter moves sweetly, that’s art.  It’s chiseling a human stature.  If Martha Graham can sculpt a ballerina; a boxing trainer can sculpt a fighter.  If she can educate toes—a white-collar trainer can educate fists.

White-collar boxing is a wonderful thing.

People are getting back into shape, strengthening their cardio-vascular system, and resuscitating long-forgotten muscle groups of their body--and their self-esteem.

Blogs discussing white-collar boxing are beginning to pop up on the internet.

John Dunn blogs:

I'm a 60-year-old who has just taken up boxing. A life-long dream? No, but a life-long ambition.

I've no idea whether I will get to the point where I can spar competitively with my "peers", but I think I'd enjoy the opportunity. I agree that the promoter should not also be the regulator and overseer, which is where USA Boxing would come in. But if they can't reach an agreement, then let the bill pass. It's not as though we older boxers haven't had our share of hard-knocks over the years. It’s hard to get there without a few.

White-collar boxing is a wonderful thing.

Regulate it.  But don’t lard it up with undue political interference, self-defeating rules and exorbitant fees.  Perhaps the best way to facilitate white-collar boxing is for state legislature to grant it “privileged status” and run shows under the auspices of USA Boxing.

Lurking out there, are many 30-ish account executives itching to step into the ring; many 40-ish teachers dreaming about delivering a beautiful left hook--right hand combination, and many 50-ish working-home moms quietly shadowboxing in their mirrors.  Each aspires to emulate that terrible beauty they saw last night on HBO.

Another blog, submitted by Peter Weiss, Dec 17, 2007 02:47

(New York Sun)

I started white-collar boxing when I was 48 and trained by Jose "Kid" Avila. I trained at the Church Street Gym and also at some lesser known clubs around NYC. Within 6 months of starting, I dropped 25 pounds and quit smoking.

As part of my very rigorous training, I sparred every other day, 3 three-minute rounds with Kid Avila just in preparation for challenging sparring sessions with other Church Street members.

You spar real hard during training so when the white-collar event comes up your fight is a vacation by comparison. You are not supposed to try to kill your opponent in white- collar events. But, for me, it’s two consenting adults stepping into the ring with cheering family, friends and fans watching.  This means I will try to put my 16-ounce glove through your chest, ribs, liver, face or brain if I can, thank you.

Somehow in every bout my opponent felt the same way. I was lucky to have many worthy opponents.

The clubs set it up so there was an even playing field, and in theory no one gets hurt. You are matched by skill and weight. Even though there are supposedly no winners or losers and we don't fight for title or prize money, we know who the winners are.

I am 60 now and have just stopped competing to complete the 2nd part of reconstructive surgery for my broken nose, but it is worth it.

If you are not into blood sports, then there is no point in explaining to you the overall health benefits we experience: the strength gains, stamina, the joy, comradeship, the sense of accomplishment, the pride, the energy, the sex appeal, the admiration we achieve.

When I watch a sporting event or even an action movie, I relate to it in reality and not in fantasy. My blood rushes. I am empowered by it and my life is monumentally richer. This is in addition to the way I feel as a successful painter, inventor and industrial engineer and family man.

This past weekend, while taking a break from writing this article, I brought my 11-year-old daughter to the park to practice her fielding for her traveling softball team.  On the adjacent softball field were weekend-warriors, wearing baseball caps and cleats, swinging for the fences and running out ground balls.  It was awfully nice to see these old boys chasing their bliss.

Boxing, at this point in my life, would be the last sport I’d choose to have fun, but to each his own.   This is America, a wonderful country where we chase our wonderful dreams, even if it might give us a black eye—or in Peter Weiss’ case--a broken nose.

(Peter Wood, a 1971 NYC Middleweight Golden Gloves Finalist, and 1976 Maccabian Games Alternate in the middleweight division, is the author of “Confessions of a Fighter” and "A Clenched Fist –The Making of a Golden Gloves Champion," uplifting memoirs about boxing, both published by Ringside Books. Visit Amazon at:

http://www.amazon.com/Confessions-Fighter-Battling-Through-Classic/dp/097896831X

Silverglade sent TSS a list of white collar boxing's positive points:

Positive Points Of White Collar Boxing

Matches are sparring sessions not fights. Three rounds of two minutes or less. Participants wear full protective gear. Large gloves. At the end of the session there is no decision.

The program has been injury free over its seventeen years history.

It allows for ordinary people get the thrill and satisfaction of showing their skills in boxing exhibitions.

Allows for sanctioned, regulated and supervised shows avoiding the bootleg, underground dangerous types.

Properly supervised, boxing is one of the safest conditioning activities participants can partake in.

There are no winners or losers.  The exhibitions provide no incentive to pummel the other fighter.

White Collar Boxing is a sport where most of the contact is taken out of it.

The referee breaks up any action deemed too aggressive.

The bout is not about punishment, it is about displaying skills.

Statistics prove that there are fewer injuries and deaths in boxing than in other physical sports.

Business people get the opportunity to compete with each other without hurting each other.

White Collar Boxing is a confidence builder.

Family and friends can come support participants.

Boxing is spread to a class of people whom usually only watch from their couches.

It has been proven that boxing fights obesity thus improving physical health.  

Boxing promotes good health through exercise and training designed to provide a better lifestyle and longer lifespan.

Promotes the improvement of good physical conditioning, mental health and alertness.

Improves health by reducing high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

It has helped men with prostate cancer and women with breast cancer.

Participant’s self-esteem is elevated by the ability to defend oneself and display one’s talents in front of an audience.

Self-confidence is elevated because you are in top physical condition.

White Collar Boxing is a boost to the economy. It provides income for boxing gyms. The high cost of rent and insurance has closed the majority of boxing gyms in New York State. It also provides employment for ex boxers to become trainers.

Training, though rigorous, is fun. The fun is increased considerably when you are competing with an opponent.

People who box are competitive by nature, and looking forward to competition, which gives them the incentive to train hard and get into the best shape.

Boxing provides stress relief for both men and women; the euphoric feeling produced by endorphins post-workout is fantastic.

Hard exercise helps relieve many physical problems and much mental stress, thus leading to people potentially becoming better parents, better employees and employers and better members of our community.

White Collar Boxing is ideal for today’s business person precisely because the skills needed for boxing translate into effective, practical and valuable job skills: endurance in the face of opposition, the ability to remain calm under pressure, a keen eye for detail and finesse, indefatigable energy and healthy assertiveness.

White Collar Boxing gives our senior citizens the opportunity to prove to themselves and others that people over 65 are not through.

Feel free to print out the following template letter, to support white collar boxing in NY:

Date:

Honorable Steve Englebright

New York State Assembly

712 Legislative Office Building

Albany, NY 12248

Dear Mr. Englebright:

Although I am not a fighter, I can’t help but feel that White Collar bouts are important to reach a class of businessmen who do not ordinarily get the thrill and satisfaction of showing their skills in boxing exhibitions. It allows them to avoid bootlegged and underground shows and to enroll in sanctioned bouts that are regulated and supervised. The US White Collar Boxing, Inc. will provide safety.

In addition, white-collar bouts are arranged so that there are no winners. They are just exhibitions where there is no incentive to pummel the other fighter. In fact, on the rare occasion when one boxer gets too gung ho the referee will break up the action. The fight is not about punishment, it is about displaying the fighter’s skills.

It has been medically proven that boxing fights obesity and promotes good physical and mental health. Self-esteem is elevated by the ability to defend oneself and display one’s talents in front of an audience. Self-confidence is elevated because you are in top physical condition. Many fighters have been able to eliminate medications for blood pressure and cholesterol.

White Collar boxing is a sport with most of the contact taken out of it. Businessmen get the opportunity to compete with each other without hurting each other. Their friends root as if they were at a real fight and boxing is spread to a class of people whom usually only watch from the stadium. Boxing is no longer the domain of the disenfranchised. It becomes democratized.

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