Trevor Cramer
Senior sports sub-editor
3 minute read
8 May 2021
10:10 am

The magnetic allure of White Collar boxing

Trevor Cramer

These are ordinary people who simply want to hone their skills and experience the adrenaline rush of walking to the ring and actually facing an opponent in a real fight scenario.

Fifty-two-year-old White Collar boxing veteran James Sey (right) looks for an opening to unload against opponent Leo Rothman. Picture: Brian Wysoke

Prior to the Covid-19 scourge and associated hard lockdown, White Collar boxing in large urban centres was growing in popularity.

With the recent relaxation of local Covid-19 restrictions, “Seconds Out” hosted their maiden White Collar event last weekend, a project put together by Akira Solomon, daughter of boxing trainer Jodi Solomon.

The well-matched five-fight programme, which included an exhibition fight and entertainment by well-known musician Majozi, was staged on a mild autumn afternoon at an outdoor venue in Parktown North, Johannesburg, under strict Covid-19 compliance.

Jodi Solomon and Akira

Organisers of the “Seconds Out” White Collar Boxing event, well-known boxing trainer Jodi Solomon (left) and her daughter Akira. Picture: Brian Wysoke

Social responsibility was a high priority and a large portion of the proceeds generated from ticket sales are being donated to Sonke Gender Justice and the Frieda Hartley Foundation, who both assist victims of gender based violence (GBV) and child abuse

Barring the exhibition bout, which featured 52-year-old, 44-fight white collar veteran James Sey and former amateur Leo Rothman, competitors were predominantly run-of-the-mill gym clients who took up boxing as a form of fitness.

These are ordinary people with no real professional boxing aspirations who simply want to hone the skills they have learnt in the gym and experience the adrenaline rush of walking to the ring and actually facing an opponent in a real fight scenario, with a reduced risk factor.

Overseen by the keen eye of former heavyweight kingpin Flo Simba, competitors all wearing reinforced 16-ounce gloves and headgear, slugged it out for three two-minute rounds, with a one-minute break between rounds, more in the name of fun, than winning or losing.

But the logical question to ask surely is what attracts your average Joe to step between the ropes at the risk of taking a beating?“Once you get involved in boxing in any form, curiosity takes over. It takes a lot of courage to get into a ring and you tend to start asking yourself whether you can do it in a combat fight situation, but you have to be confident in your abilities and who you are,” explained Jodi, co-owner of Roy Jones Jr & Jodi Solomon Boxing in Johannesburg.

“The big attraction is to see how far they can push their own limits. It’s human nature to see how far you can actually go. It’s about people who expect more from themselves, people who are competitive. It has huge appeal to so many levels of people. Once it bites, you want to explore it further.”

White collar boxers

John Meyer (red dyed hair) and opponent Michael Egner with their respective cornermen after a tough three-round battle. Picture: Brian Wysoke

For many of the combatants, explained Jodi, who also has a growing professional stable under her wing, it’s not only about getting the better of the adversary standing in front of you in a ring.

“I’m a firm believer – and have always said it to my professional boxers – when you get into the ring, you are not only facing your opponent, you are facing your own demons, your biggest insecurities and hurdles in life.”

Being a combat sport, one cannot expect competitors to slug it out based on nothing more than pent-up aggression, and a minimum standard of skill and ability is paramount.

Akira and her team visited a whole host of Gauteng gyms to personally see all the contestants, assess previous white collar records and match them evenly on that basis.

As Jodi points out though, one should never forget that it is a combative sport with strict rules and regulations but the concept has the potential to grow boxing from another level.

“By introducing people to a white collar level, we get people to understand that it’s not just the violent sport it’s portrayed to be, but takes a lot of skill, science, movement and talent.”

Judging by the ‘house full’ sign being up a week in advance, there is clearly potential for a post-Covid growth spurt.