Lord it in the ring to beat stress
Now there's a dedicated place where executives can let fly to ease their frustrations, writes Kate Jones.
It's the place where white-collar workers swap their suits for a pair of boxing gloves and punch out all their frustrations. Welcome to Executive Fight Club.
Unlike Tyler Durden's motley crew in the movie Fight Club, these fighters have high-flying careers in law, medicine, finance and construction.
But don't underestimate them. The stress of demanding bosses and pressing deadlines is what drives these office types to step inside the boxing ring and give it all they've got.
Small-business owner and former detective Matt Hutchings first heard of EFC through a friend with whom he used to exercise.
"He told me they train you up to get in the ring and have a fight and I thought, 'What a fantastic opportunity,"' he says.
Hutchings, who owns traffic management and equipment hire company Road Worx, signed up and began a gruelling eight-week training regime that would lead to his first boxing match.
Along with a group of 14 otAUSher executives, Hutchings worked out in Melbourne's Basement Boxing Gym three times a week sparring, sprinting and skipping.
"It improved my health and fitness and my stress levels went down," he says.
"Mentally and physically, it just toughens you up. I had more get up and go.
"By having a goal to achieve I wasn't just focused on my business."
Like most in his group, Hutchings had no boxing experience.
He worked more than 60 hours a week and was more accustomed to tackling business opponents.
But after learning the basics of boxing and lifting his fitness, Hutchings was ready for his first fight.
In front of a crowd of 450 people, including his colleagues, family and friends, Hutchings took to the ring.
"After the first one or two punches you're not thinking about the crowd, you're thinking about survival, to be honest," he says.
"Some of the guys thought it was a bit of a mismatch because I went up against a personal trainer and kickboxer. It was daunting.
"But once we got into it, it evened up." Much to his surprise, Hutchings won the fight.
"It was a good buzz, a good conclusion to three months of training," he says.
"And it was an absolute eye-opener that gave me an appreciation of what real boxers who are fighting for their careers do."
Hutchings, 43, took a biological age test before starting his EFC training. The test, which calculates metabolic function, physical capability and healthy behaviours, showed his "bio age" was 47.
After completing the EFC program, Hutchings' bio age was 41 and he was nine kilograms lighter.
EFC founder and former two-time world kickboxing champion "Diamond" Dale Westerman says Hutchings' results are similar to those of most of the white-collar boxers at his gym.
"A lot of them are just business people who play no sport and want to get fit," he says.
"Most are aged over 30, have kids, a disposable income and they've worked pretty hard and want to do something for themselves.
"It's a good way for them to relieve some pressure and some stress."
Westerman trains two groups of 15 male and female executives twice a year. For $750, each novice boxer is trained by Westerman and given nutrition and lifestyle advice from fitness guru Paul Taylor.
"I train them up and get them sparring when I see they've got sufficient skills to defend themselves," Westerman says.
"They get bopped on the nose now and then, but it's a combat sport and that's the reality of it."
The intensive training course is all in preparation for the gala fight night, which is sanctioned by the Professional Boxing and Sports Combat Board, refereed and attended by a doctor.
For $195 a ticket, workmates can cheer on competitors and be treated to a three-course meal.
Part of the proceeds of the black-tie event go to various charities, which have previously included the Jockeys' Trust for injured riders and Les Twentyman's 20th Man Fund for the homeless.
Westerman says the pressure of performing on the night is enough to motivate his beginner boxers.
"It's very serious," he says.
"In training we've instilled in them that it's combat, a war.
"It's a hell of a thing to get in the ring and start punching someone. It's such a rush."
It may be serious inside the ring, but Hutchings says he still managed to see the lighter side of the sport.
"My music as I was called to the ring was Boy George's Do You Really Want to Hurt Me - just for a bit of a laugh," he says. "You can't take it too seriously. You've got to have some fun."
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