HONG KONG (Reuters) - Adam Gazal trained for six months to stand in the ring for six minutes of live boxing. He remembers the noise, and not much else, and said he’d like to try it again, though he realizes that the time in the gym took time away from home.
“I think my wife will divorce me if I go through another six months of training,” Gazal said after the fight.
The managing partner of National Australia Bank was one of 14 contenders who on Thursday took part in Hong Kong’s sixth annual IronMonger Hedge Fund Fight Night, a fundraising event that is now a staple of the city’s financial community.
Gazal, who fought his pal Grant Livingston, an executive director at JPMorgan with a long reach and quick jab, won by unanimous decision.
A survey of the crowd found more bankers than hedgies in attendance, perhaps a sign of the industry’s struggles in the region. Asian-focused hedge funds as measured by the Eurekahedge index rose 3.8 percent through September this year, falling short of a 7 percent rise in the MSCI Asia index. At least 73 Asia hedge funds have shut down this year.
The city’s bankers and financiers aren’t faring much better, though the sector’s woes failed to impact attendance on Thursday night. At more than HK$2,000 ($260) a seat, the black-tie crowd filled every chair inside the makeshift boxing tent. Proceeds go to children’s charities Operation Breakthrough and Operation Smile, with last year’s event raising more than HK$500,000.
American Anthony Carango, an executive director at Nomura Holdings, had a focused plan going into his match - a plan that he said “went out the window” as soon as the bell rang.
Carango, who squared off against Craig Barnish, a managing director at BAH Partners Ltd, said it came back to him occasionally - “head, body, head, body” - enough to allow him a unanimous-decision victory.
HSBC fielded three fighters on the night. Richard Rouse, an account manager at the bank, held steady in his match against Andrew Wylde, head of sales and operations at Hatstand consultancy. Wylde fought hard, needing to stop twice to mend a bloody face, but Rouse held on to win.
Blair Crichton, an assistant vice president of HSBC, and Brad Moreland, a director of prime services at the bank, each won their matches, pulling off a clean sweep. Crichton defeated Stephen Taw, a director at South Ocean Management Ltd, while Moreland won against Frenchman Nicolas Boulay, a derivatives broker at Louis Capital.
“As the fight goes on, you get tired, you tend to lose form, which was obvious,” said Boulay, who noted his strong crowd support from friends and clients.
Danielle Midalia, a creative manager at Operation Smile, defeated Andrea Glynn, an associate at the Bank of Montreal, in the night’s only female match-up. Mark O‘Reilly, a managing director at Astbury Marsden, lost to George Radford, a consultant at IP Global.
Taw, 53, was the eldest boxer and crowd favorite, known as the “Wizard of Wanchai”. With grey hair protruding from his red headgear, he went down in the first of three rounds, then held tough throughout.
“My strategy was simple: do not get hit in the face,” he said, a strategy that quickly fell apart. Standing near the ring in his boxing outfit after the fight and holding two glasses of beer, Taw reflected on his performance.
“I think I won the third round,” said Taw, his face now cleared of blood. “But I didn’t land my jabs.”
Editing by Dale Hudson