x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

A peek inside Dubai's own fight club

At the White Collar Fight Night, a growing number of women are competing with far more grace and technique than their flailing, testosterone-fuelled counterparts.

Melanie Swan trains with Nik Taumafai at KO Gym in Dubai's Marina area for her bout at White Collar Fight Night on March 23.
Melanie Swan trains with Nik Taumafai at KO Gym in Dubai's Marina area for her bout at White Collar Fight Night on March 23.

If someone had told me a year go that I'd one day step inside the ring and fight it out in front of 600 people, I'd have said they were mad. But since first setting foot inside my local gym, KO in Dubai Marina, early last year, I got bitten by the boxing bug.

While I'd always enjoyed watching big boxing fights, I was never an avid fan like my father, who'd happily watch them for hours. Tired from the monotony of my running and gym routine, I thought some boxing training would be a nice new activity to get into.

That's when the White Collar Fight Night entered the picture. The event, to be held at the Habtoor Hotel on March 23, brings two teams of amateurs together, trains them for eight weeks in a gruelling regime and then throws them into the ring to fight it out.

Having been to past editions of the event and having seen first-hand how the fighters train, I decided I could no longer merely watch, so I signed up.

As a female fighter, I wasn't alone. Several other women compete in the event and with far more grace and technique than their flailing, testosterone-fuelled counterparts.

The differences are quite remarkable in fact, with us females insistent on learning the skills systematically, unlike the more primal male approach of slogging it out as though in a bar brawl.

It is no mean feat. For eight weeks, we must train at least three days a week, twice a day, in between other fitness activities such as sparring, to ensure we're in fighting form. Three times a week we train at 6am, doing 45 minutes of cardio exercises and then another 45 minutes of skills training and sparring. At night, we do it all again.

Diets are maintained carefully and I do this with the help of the healthy food establishment Kcal, which is providing my much-needed six meals a day.

Fight Night has come a long way since it began five years ago. After seven editions, it has attracted a range of enthusiasts from different backgrounds.

For some, it has been a springboard to go even further. Krystal Winsloe, 26, was one of two female fighters in the second event. She is now training for the title of state champion, for which she will fight on March 9.

"White Collar gave me a glimpse of the boxing world and I loved it - especially the training," says the Emirates Airline crew member and rugby player for the Dubai Falcons. "It has been four years since I competed, and I am ready to step up my game."

She says as a woman, the training and fighting experiences differ from those of men. "Although we have the same training, the same fight night and the same expectations, as women we deal with these things differently from a man," she says.

"On the night, it's not a test of pride for us as much as it is for a man, if things don't go our way in the ring. A woman already knows she's victorious as soon as she steps in the ring, just because she did."

Mark Povey, the managing director at Transguard, which organises the event, says: "The profile of the audience and boxers has changed a lot over the years. Back in the beginning, it was very much about construction workers plus a couple of girls. Since then, the whole profile's changed. We've had people like teachers, property developers and a pharmacist."

Povey says the highlights are usually the female fights. "The girls seem to take it on board much better than the guys," he says. "Most boys think they know how to fight, but girls are easier to teach, as they have no preconceptions that they can fight. The men have a lot more bad habits and the girls are better at doing the cardiovascular work, which of course is what it's all about."

 

mswan@thenational.ae