White-collar fight fest goes down a storm

Raised hemlines, low necklines -- yes, it's another white-collar boxing night in Hong Kong, this one courtesy of independent financial advisers IFS.

It was a fitting build-up to the notoriously debauched Hong Kong Rugby Sevens tournament. True, the dresses were a tad more glamorous -- and less beer-stained -- than those on display in Hong Kong Stadium at the weekend, but the atmosphere was equally charged, as it had been at the Ding Dong in Hong Kong in October.

The IFS white-collar boxing night* last Thursday (March 25) offered some enticing match-ups, replete with WWF-style pre-match videos. Enticing enough, at least, to attract a full house of 700 financial and legal execs (plus a smattering of journos) to the InterContinental Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, baying for blood. And that was just the women.

First up was a hard-hitting American-Dutch bout, with US-born Scott "Too Hotty" Andrews of brokerage Icap taking on RBS's Toby "Two Smoking Barrels" Smith-Cullen. From the opening exchanges, it looked as though the heat would force Andrews well and truly out of the kitchen -- and so it proved. The Dutchman's guns blew him away over the three rounds. A roar went up from one of the two rival tables close to your writer's spot, which had loudly heckled each other throughout.

In bout two, Budapest-born Zoltan Feledy of State Street Global Advisers took on HB Designs' Ricky "Super Fly" Bernardo. In a faster-paced match than the first, Hong Kong-born Portuguese Bernardo weaved and dodged blows from "the Hungarian Hammer" to record a win. This was a close contest, though, and by the end of round three, both boxers could barely stand.

Next up was a heavyweight match. Texan CLSA sales trader Brad "Godzilla" Smith -- weighing in at 107 kilos (235 pounds for the imperialists among us) -- took on "Danny Boy" Browne from brokerage BGC Partners. Despite being 15 years Browne's senior, the hulking Smith looked set to rampage all over the Brit. But it was not to be. One well-aimed swing brought a flood of blood from Godzilla's nose -- and a technical knock-out for Browne.

From a European point of view, perhaps the most highly anticipated match was bout four, featuring "Fast and Furious" Frenchman Jean-Marc Reynier, a JP Morgan equity options trader, and Deutsche Bank stockbroker Lee "Macca" Mcqueen, a Brit from Essex. The Englishmen out there -- including your correspondent -- were pleased to see that Macca, despite giving away four inches in height, was notably faster and more furious than his French opponent. Another British victory then.

Like the third fight, bout five was a 'battle of the beasts', with Irishman Stephen Nolan -- aka 'Horse', tipping the scales at 124 kilos -- facing Ben "Boom Time" Hartwell, an equity sales trader at Tradition and another Essex man. The athletic-looking Hartwell -- the tallest fighter, just shy of two metres -- looked a shoo-in for victory, but Nolan showed the greater skill to land some huge slobberknockers and down the Brit.

Credit Suisse's Yasuto "Katana" Arai was the first fighter from Japan to feature in this white-collar event, and he featured next in an intriguing match-up with Scotsman Graham "The Real Deal" McNeill of EC Harris. The kilt-clad Glaswegian strode into the ring to rapturous applause -- particularly from the female contingent. You could've cut the anticipation with a knife, as he tore off his tartan to reveal... a pair of blue shorts. Sorry girls.

By this point, the testosterone had clearly permeated the entire venue, as two ladies at our table engaged in a 'friendly' arm-wrestling match. The winner of that was uncertain, but McNeil emerged victorious over Arai in another tight contest.

In the final bout, UBS head of quants Iraqi Bilal "5-star" Al-Ali took on Jacco Klip, "the Punching Dutchman". Al-Ali came on like a seasoned pro, standing on the ropes and milking the crowd's frenzied appreciation for all it was worth. It appeared to pay off, as he edged out Klip by decision.

With the main business concluded, an award was presented to the best fighter of the night -- Smith-Cullen was the judges' choice. Your correspondent's wife can claim a small victory of her own here: after flicking through the programme before dinner, she proclaimed she liked the look of bout one's Dutchman most of all. Fair enough -- I'm not about to issue a challenge to him any time soon...

* International Financial Services was the main backer of the event, but mention should also go to the other bout sponsors, who were raising money for the Children's Surgical Centre in Cambodia. They were: CNP Professional, Deutsche Bank, eFinancial Careers, Investment Technology Group and Robertsons Solicitors.

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