Bankers ride the punches for charity
Adam Gazal expected changes when he signed up to the white-collar boxing match, the Hedge Fund Fight Nite, but he didn't realise the impact would be felt all the way to the boardroom.
"Boxing is all I've been thinking about," says the managing partner of business banking at the National Australia Bank.
Gazal, 35, has been found shadow boxing in the office kitchen and has sported a few new looks in the workplace. "The first time I sparred at lunch and had a client meeting right after, there was no hiding the bruise that was starting to show," he says. "But everyone at the bank knows what I'm doing, and they are really supportive. It's become a great talking point."
Gazal will join 13 other amateurs on October 25 as they swap their business suits for boxing gloves in support of local charities, Operation Smile and Operation Breakthrough. At 1.91 metres tall and weighing 85kg, Gazal has his work cut out as he prepares to take on training buddy Grant Livingston from JPMorgan, who is 1.96 metres and weighs in at 95kg.
But with a background in triathlons and competitive running, Gazal is always up for a challenge. He says this particular one has been transformational: "Running a marathon is great, but it's more self-rewarding. There is something really special in that we are all in it together, and at the end of the day, it's benefiting others."
Taking part in the boxing competition has also been a way for the Australian, who moved to Hong Kong 15 months ago, to make new friends. He's planning to fight another white-collar bout in November.
"The camaraderie and the confidence that you build through the sport will definitely keep me going," says Gazal.
Though his last name sounds like "gazelle" - an animal known for its ability to outrun its predators - he says he won't shy away from the challenge in the ring, and will provide a good show.
"On the night, I know I won't be thinking that I could have done more, because I've learned as much as I can. I'm just going to enjoy it and give it my best shot," he says.
Have your feelings towards boxing changed since you started training six months ago?
Boxing is so much more technical than I first thought. I always had respect for boxing as a sport, but I would never have pictured myself in the ring. The level of fitness it requires, and the technical skills you need to be competitive, are mind-blowing. The first time I sparred in two by two minute rounds, I was absolutely spent.
How did you feel when you were first punched?
I was just shocked. You try to condition yourself for it, but I remember the first time I copped a reasonably hard hit and it knocked me around. Try as hard as you like, there is nothing you can do to really prepare for that first blow. It still hurts, even now.
What's your secret weapon?
A lot of hard work. I've been doing a lot of skill work, and luckily I've been picking that up just a little bit better, I think. I've been getting personal training once a week, training with a friend, and doing group boxing sessions twice a week. I'm training every day, and twice a day around three times a week.
Where do you get your energy?
There's a lot of nervous excitement driving you. I've been watching a lot of past Fight Nite fights and visualising myself on the night. I don't want to look back and think I could have done better. I don't want any regrets. I'm putting everything into it that I can.
How are you going to prepare yourself on the night?
I've picked an AC/DC song to get me pumped. I have a great corner man who's more excited than I am - he's been sending me motivational e-mails and YouTube videos every day. To manage the nerves, I'm keeping in mind that the other guy will be equally as fearful. In a white-collar event like this, you know exactly what the other guy has gone through.
How will you celebrate afterwards?
I'll definitely have a beer with Grant, and a few drinks with friends, colleagues and my wife Liana, who has had to put up with my training regime for the past five months.
How has the experience changed you?
Boxing has broadened the scope of what I now think is possible. Training for this event has been the most difficult thing I've done, and stepping into that ring will be even harder. But I now feel I could do anything. I can tackle challenges with a different mindset. I've grown in confidence.