My Crazy Experience of a White Collar Boxing Match (and how it inspired my latest book)
I know what you’re thinking: didn’t he have a book out last month!? The answer is yes – they’re evidently a bit like buses! I wrote them over the course of the last few years, but they’ve ended up releasing just over a month apart with two different publishers, which means it’s been a busy but exciting time. London 2039: Auxiliary was released in May and is a noir detective, cyberpunk thriller you can find here, while Rabbit Hole is my latest crime thriller released in June (tomorrow at the time of writing!) It's the latter that I wanted to talk about today; or, more specifically, how my strange experience of fighting in a charity ‘white collar’ boxing match played a part in influencing the story.
First, a little about the book. Rabbit Hole tells the story of Elaine Napier, a journalist who, after being made redundant, decides to start a cold case investigation podcast, and stumbles upon the case of missing Katrin Gunnarsdottir. The young Icelandic woman disappeared without a trace from her apartment in 2013, with police baffled despite intense scrutiny of Katrin’s boyfriend and other suspects. After an early breakthrough, Elaine believes she might be on the right track to solving the mystery… but the case quickly spirals out of control, and leaves Elaine questioning her own sense of right and wrong.
Among the missing girl’s many interests was boxing, and Elaine interviews several people who helped Katrin train for the ‘white collar’ match she competed in shortly before she vanished. I was inspired to include this element of the story after I competed in such a charity fight myself in 2018, and I thought the story of my own experience might make for an amusing blog post!
Firstly, I am not in any way a capable fighter: I am scrawny, clumsy, and I don’t like conflict. But when a work colleague suggested signing up for a match, it felt like a great opportunity to do something completely outside of my comfort zone, as well as to raise money for charity and to get eight weeks of free fitness training. I’d already heard about these charity events after the likes of Ricky Gervais competed, and if I’m honest (as a massive professional wrestling fan), the biggest attraction was the idea of walking out to my own entrance music in front of a load of friends and family!
The way these fights work is that you are committed to selling a certain number of tickets for ‘fight night’, to cover the organisation’s costs and raise the requisite amount for charity (as well as obtaining sponsorship to increase your donation). In return, you receive eight weeks of brutally intense training, both in general fitness and in specific boxing technique, which includes sparring with various potential opponents. I quickly realised that the majority of the class were not doing it ‘for a laugh’ like I was, but were in fact young and in great condition even before training started, and in some cases already had some boxing experience; I needed to up my game, fast!
Thankfully I was helped by three great coaches: our two boxing trainers had very different styles (one was a mild-mannered, quiet and polite young man who was clearly an excellent boxer; the other was a terrifying, Full Metal Jacket-style drill sergeant who doled out punishment push-ups with alarming regularity!), and I also enlisted the help of a personal trainer for the final few weeks. She was a fantastic coach and also a hard-as-nails MMA fighter; not only did she undoubtedly save me from a savage beating, but she also directly inspired one of the characters in the book!
I was also helped out a lot in training by one of the other older members of the class, a great fighter and absolute gentleman named Domenico... sadly for me, he ended up being my eventual opponent! But, despite my defeat (you can check out the footage here – I’m fighting under my much less cool real name!), I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and would recommend it to anyone; developing your boxing skills is great for your self-confidence, the training itself will make you fitter than you’ve ever been (my running times improved enormously over the course of that year), and walking out to the Imperial March theme from Star Wars was pretty incredible!
The actual event took place at the Troxy in East London, a former cinema and amazing Grade II-listed Art Deco building, in front of a staggeringly large crowd – probably bigger than most legitimate boxers experience in their entire careers. I was lucky enough to have friends and family there to support me, and take me out for some much-needed beers immediately after the fight (possibly not the best idea with a mild concussion, but hey-ho!)
If that has piqued your interest in participating in a white collar fight of your own then definitely take a look online, as I’m sure the various promotions will be starting up again after the lockdown lifts. It’s definitely worth making sure the promotion you sign up with is reputable and well-reviewed, as this will ensure they follow appropriate safety guidelines like making head guards mandatory.
If, on the other hand, you’d prefer to experience the thrill in a more sedate and vicarious way from the comfort of your own armchair, along with a gripping murder mystery and some unpredictable plot twists, then please do check out Rabbit Hole instead; it’s available here for pre-order at the time of writing, and will very soon be released in paperback or for your eReader device.
I hope that’s been an interesting post, and look forward to chatting to you again soon!
Until next time,