Page last updated at 07:33 GMT, Friday, 24 April 2009 08:33 UK

Singapore's bankers eye the ring

By Mariko Oi
Business reporter, BBC News, Singapore

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Taking to the ring to de-stress

A 1,000-strong crowd has gathered to cheer seven bouts at the fifth White Collar Boxing tournament in Singapore - the biggest of its kind in the world.

The 14 contesters mainly work in the financial industry and have no previous ring experience.

But they have been training for the last three months.

"It is a sheer commitment," says "Lou Ferringo, who by day is better known as Robin James who works for Barclays Capital.

"My naivety got me into it."

Doing it for the kicks

Many in the audience share Lou Ferringo's cultural background; expatriates, many of them in finance, all with money to burn.

These guys are just like you and me, regular guys in a similar situation, which makes the event more interesting
Advertising executive Mat Ward

While those who throw the punches are doing it for the kicks.

"I thought I could box," grins Ferringo the boxer. "But I then realised what a hard work, a sheer determination it was.

"We all have day jobs, so we train after work. I think I prefer to stick to my day job."

Outside in the real world, the worst recession in generations is raging, and by day the bankers are facing greater challenges than ever before.

But ringside, or indeed in the ring, all can be forgotten.

No surprise, then, that the $200 tickets for the event sold out in four days, confounding organiser Ian Mullane's fears.

"We were definitely cautious," he acknowledges.

"But while people are picky on where they put their discretionary spending, they seem to view this as a good value night, an enjoyable evening."

Regular guys

Banker Ian James Laird agrees.

"It is relatively cheap," he says. "Considering it is a four course meal with a free flow of booze. A lot cheaper than a usual Saturday night out."

Advertising executive Mat Ward sees the event as "something different and unique".

"If they were professional boxers I would not bother," he says. "But these guys are just like you and me, regular guys in a similar situation, which makes the event more interesting."

Added entertainment comes from the charity auction, which raised thousands for the Children's Surgical Unit in Cambodia.

A tennis racquet autographed by world number one Rafa Nadal was sold for more than 6000 dollars.

Noble activity

White collar boxing has become so popular that it has even entered the corporate entertainment arena.

"We moved from being personal discretionary spending to being business expense," explains Mr Mullane.

"We have an awful lot of people bringing their clients for entertainment because it is more moderately priced than other major sporting events, yet it is still entertaining, noble and popular."



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