From the office to the ring

Updated: 2015-12-12 04:01

By ALYWIN CHEW in Shanghai(China Daily USA)

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From the office to the ring
Touted as one of the fastest growing contact sports in the world, white collar boxing seems to have no shortage of fans here in China

For someone her age, Hilary Fan has already worn an unusual number of hats. Having taken to the catwalk as a part-time model, shaken and poured cocktails as a bartender, and embarked on a stint in finance and purchasing, the 21-year-old’s latest achievement involves an actual piece of head gear.

Donning a blue head guard and gloves that look a tad oversized for her figure, Hilary “The Show Stopper” Fan went toe-to-toe with her British opponent Esme “South Side” Harvey during Shanghai Fight Night, a charity boxing event, at the Pudong Shangri-La Hotel on Dec 5.

In a ring set up in the middle of a ballroom and under a massive chandelier, the two women squared off amid cheers from hundreds of people immaculately dressed in evening gowns and tuxedos. This white collar boxing bout — the first of eight fights for the night — went the full three rounds, which were just two minutes each. Harvey looked the more aggressive of the two boxers, her punches finding Fan’s ribs and face with more consistency. Fan, however, waited for her opponent to commit before unleashing a flurry of counter-attacking jabs to the side of head.

The three rounds were over in a flash, but the two white collar boxers looked clearly exhausted. The referee brought the two panting boxers together in the center of the ring after Round 3 and promptly raised the Brit’s arm as she jumped for joy before giving Fan a hug.

The Show Stopper

Born in Zhengzhou, Henan province, Fan moved to California in the United States when she was just three, returning to China for good only about a year ago. Currently working as an account manager with Empress Communications, a brand management company in Shanghai, Fan said that her boxing nickname is a reference to the time she slipped on the catwalk during her modeling days.

Tall, slim, and more cherubic than bellicose, Fan hardly comes across as someone who would even kill an insect, let alone step into a boxing ring. But it is not an innate aggression that Fan is attempting to satiate with white collar boxing. Rather, she claims that she is simply on the lookout for new experiences in life, having acknowledged that she might be a little too privileged as compared to others in society.

“I’ve gone to private schools my whole life so I’ve been quite sheltered,” Fan said. “I felt like I needed to get out more and see the world. It’s all about trying out new things, testing my boundaries to see how far I can go.”

Fan first chanced upon white collar boxing when she got to know Valentin Legrand, a Frenchman in Shanghai whom she was considering renting an apartment from. Having added him on the messaging app WeChat, Fan admitted to “stalking” Legrand to find out if he might be a trustworthy landlord. This was when she discovered his frequent posts on how he was training for his white collar boxing event.

Fan eventually rented the apartment, befriended Legrand, and got to learn more about boxing. But what ultimately convinced her to sign up for fight night was witnessing the positive changes boxing brought to Legrand’s life.

“When I first met Valentin we would go out a lot so I guess my impression of him was that he wasn’t quite the self-disciplined person,” said Fan with a laugh.

“But after he had started training, he wouldn’t even come out for just one glass of wine. He now has a very rigorous training regime and a strict diet. Just seeing how focused he was really motivated me.”

The reason they box

Cheerful and eager to pose for photos with the other boxers despite her loss, Fan looked to have emerged from the fight unscathed. When asked if she would consider taking part again next year, the answer from her was a resounding yes.

“I thought that it would be disappointing to lose, but it’s not. Besides, I did manage to give Esme a bloody nose,” quipped Fan.

“I’ll definitely be back. It’s a really fun and good learning experience.”

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