We’re often urged to fight for a good cause, but rarely is the imperative so literal. On June 19, sixteen incredible men and women will take to the ring at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo as part of the Tony Evans and deVere Group Executive Fight Night V to raise money for Shine On! Kids.
What moves these individuals to commit to the fight, to the rigorous process of training, to the inevitable injuries? Metropolis sat down with four of the fighters to find out what drives them.
Chad Lafferty (full interview) is a native of Oklahoma who works as an associate director in the contract division at Robert Walters Japan. Jacqueline Alexander (full interview) is a professional freelance makeup artist, an American who graduated first in her class at The London School of Beauty and Makeup. Nick Rees (full interview), who arrived from the U.K. more than a decade ago, manages an IT recruitment team at Morgan McKinley. And Gregor Zetsche (full interview), a Germany native, is a general manager at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development Japan.
This diversity comes together for a common goal under the guidance of EFN and the trainers at Club 360. Asking why they chose to take part in the event reveals common threads: a competitive nature; a desire to help children suffering from serious illnesses; and a love of physical challenges.
“I felt like this would be a great challenge for me to take on,” says Zetsche. “You don’t often have the chance to help others by getting punched in the face. I have high regard for what Shine On! Kids is doing, and I’m glad I can help out. My fight lasts six minutes. These kids have to fight every day.”
The driving force is the same for Rees. “It’s those amazing kids I will be thinking of. A young lad in Shizuoka painted me a special picture, and I will be fighting for this little angel on the night. He is seriously ill and will be on my mind.”
EFN is more than just a charity event. At the same time that it gives new hope to a child with cancer, it’s also a program that changes the lives of the fighters through 12 weeks of grueling preparation.
“Training for this fight has been an intense ride,” explains Alexander, who is the wife of fellow EFN fighter John “The Butcher” Trollope. “These next few weeks leading up to the ‘Big Dance’ are going to shed more blood, sweat, and dedication than I think any of us have endured before.”
Lafferty, who has done FIT and 24-hour charity runs the past couple of years, found EFN to be even more demanding than expected. “The change to boxing from other sports was pretty jarring. I was in good shape, but not boxing shape. The intensity of the training was surprising.”
Making it to June 19 requires the kind of determination that has put all of the participants at the top of their business game. “Athletics is not my forte,” confesses Zetsche. “I know how to prepare for an important presentation or an exam, not for a boxing fight. But I have come to realize that, in fact, all three are quite comparable.”
Another challenge that the fighters face is staying free of injury. The training is intense and the timeline short. “I have actually injured my left arm slightly, and have been training with one arm to err on the side of caution; but giving up is not an option,” says Rees.
One thing the four all agree on is that the personal rewards are considerable, and the health benefits outweigh the occasional cut or bruise. Lafferty proclaims, “I’m in better shape than I’ve been in since high school—arguably ever.” And Rees lauds trainer Jan Kazuba, who has been coaching the IT manager for two years now, saying “I’m a fitter and better person for it.”
Fast forward to the big night. In the center of the Grand Hyatt Tokyo Ballroom sits a boxing ring. Pledging for the fighters, a raffle, tables covered with succulent food prepared by world-class chefs, and special entertainment set the celebratory atmosphere as this year’s roster of 16 share the results of their hard work. One will leave as the champion, but all are winners—including the children.
“At the end of the day, there are a bunch of kids counting on you,” Lafferty reminds us when considering that he might not hoist the belt. “That’s the heartbreaking thing behind all this, and the reason it’s such a great event. Win or lose, Shine On! Kids wins—and that’s more important than my pride!”