Jordan Roberts, a boxing instructor in Hong Kong, recently trained the most unlikely of fighters: 29-year-old Christina Park, an internal systems consultant at BlackRock, an international investment firm.
She's not what you would call rough and tumble. More polite and brainy. She stands 5-foot-3, which Roberts said is an advantage against taller opponents.
"Keep your target small, yes," he instructed. "Stay shorter than these girls — you’re shorter than them. They shouldn't be able to get to your body so easy."
Hedge Fund Fight Nite
It was a few days until Park's bout, a three-round, six-minute fight, which would take place at the eighth annual Hedge Fund Fight Nite on Dec. 3. Park, who grew up between Seoul, South Korea and Fairfax, Va., had been training hard for the last five months.
"I’ve been quite stressed out the past week just thinking about it," she said. "I feel like I have to throw up thinking about the fight sometimes."
This year, 14 men and two women duked it out in front of an audience of 700, each of whom coughed up $250 for the black tie event. It wasn't an easy road for the participants. They sacrificed a lot to get in shape: alcohol, greasy foods, a social life. And the training was harder than they could have imagined.
"Just imagine doing the most intense cardio you can do, something like sprinting, but while somebody punches you in the face for two minutes and then knocking the wind out of you," said Patrick McGee, a journalist at the Financial Times and Fight Nite boxer.
For Park, who grew up playing water polo, that first hit to the face was a real doozy. Fortunately it was delivered from an exceedingly polite sparring partner.
"She immediately jumped forward and said, 'I’m so sorry, are you OK, are you OK?'" Park recalled. "But I actually saw stars so I had to like step back, and I was like, 'You just need to give me a minute.' And that’s when I kind of woke up and I was like 'Jesus this is a contact sport. What did I sign myself up to?'"
'The Odds Are Really Stacked Against You'
What she signed herself up for was Hedge Fund Fight Nite, which took place on the Hong Kong harbourfront under the stars — or rather, under a massive white tent that shielded the crowd from an intermittent December rain. Fifty-four tables were packed with Hong Kong moneymakers dressed in tuxedos and fancy dresses. To the north was Victoria Harbour, to the south a towering wall of glass skyscrapers.
[sidebar title="George Foreman III" width="630" align="right"]The second son of the two-time heavyweight champion of the world is making a name for himself outside the ring.[/sidebar]"It is Hong Kong, picture-postcard, and sensational considering that all of these buildings are where most of these guys work," said Rob Derry, managing director of Ironmonger Events, the company that puts on Hedge Fund Fight Nite.
Derry came up with the idea in 2006 after hearing about a similar event in London. Derry said he considered holding Fight Nites for real estate and legal professionals as well, but they just didn't gravitate to it the way financial industry folks did.
"And I think finance, it’s a pretty cut-throat business, and very determined people who are in it," Derry said. "And that kind of person who has left their home to come here to succeed, a lot of that runs through in boxing."
McGee is one of them. He works in Hong Kong but hails from Canada. He said that fighting is primal, and that the privileged participants may not have a whole lot of “real” problems.
"This where the #firstworldproblems comes in, but we still have those human instincts, right? So creating a massive problem like this for yourself is sort of one way to be able to get out those primal urges if you will," he explained.
Primal urges in a sport where the odds aren't in your favor.
"And one thing I like about this is most of the types that are actually doing this are analysts, you know?" McGee said. "These are people that are good with numbers. Well, the proposition of boxing is two men go out and this is a 50 percent chance you’re going to lose. I mean, how many trades do people put on where that’s going to be the case? You know the odds are really stacked against you."
'Seoul Snatcher' Vs. 'The Trigger'
Those low odds didn't stop Christina “Seoul Snatcher” Park from trying her luck. But about 10 seconds into her fight against Stephanie “The Trigger” Tovoli, something did stop her — one of her contact lenses.
It fell out. Roberts, her trainer, attempted to put it back in but to no avail. Park may have trained five months for this moment but she never thought she’d have to duck punches while she was essentially blind in one eye. But somehow, amazingly, she managed.
By the middle of the third and final round, the two women were so tired they could barely keep their hands up.
When the ring announcer finally named the "Seoul Snatcher" winner, Park raised her arms in victory. Later that night she changed out of her boxing gear and into formal attire — a red dress for the woman who was victorious in the red corner. After months of teetotaling, she enjoyed a glass of white wine and was asked if she'll continue to box.
"I’m interested, but at this point I’m just trying to enjoy my glass of wine," she said.
And really, who can blame her?
This segment aired on December 20, 2014.