‘In 2015 I weighed 23 and a half stone, I decided to get fit and now I’ve lost 5 and a half stone!’
Christoffer Smith is taking part for the 2nd time in our Doncaster event, here’s what motivated him to sign up to Ultra White Collar Boxing:
At Christmas time 2015 my daughter was watching Peppa pig on TV and Daddy pig was playing with his children and was shattered after two minutes my daughter turned around and said to me
you’re just like daddy pig. My daughter didn’t really know what she was saying at the time because she was only 2 but I just couldn’t get that out of my head.
I don’t want my daughter thinking of her daddy like that so, like everyone in the new year I started the gym at the start of January, I weighed 23 and a half stone. One of my friends signed up to do 19-3-16 UWCB and I helped him with extra sparring and training which benefited both of us. I couldn’t take part in that one because of work commitments, so I signed myself up for the next event which was on the 2-7-16. By this time I’d lost just over a stone.
Training started and the first few weeks killed me because I was so unfit and was thinking of dropping out, I had a word with Neil, Brian and Tony, the trainers, and they all told me I would see improvements in my fitness and only a few weeks later it was true, I did see an improvement, not a lot but I was getting my breath back quicker and I was lasting longer in training but I still was aching days after but I kept telling myself no pain no gain. If I missed a training day I would make sure I would come through the week to keep it going and the training was hard.
Two weeks before my fight I went over on my left ankle and it popped I was so disappointed with myself, all that hard work and now a can’t fight! I went to hospital and had a x-ray, it was ligament damage and the doctor told me to rest it and it wasn’t a good idea if I took part in the event. In a strange way I was happy it was ligament damage, but it still killed. I thought it was broken so I rested it for a week and started light training the week before the fight night, nothing was stopping me from fighting. I didn’t care if I lost or won I was just focused on taking part and putting on a good show, which I felt I did and I won my fight which was the best feeling! Plus all my training had really paid off, I was just close to 3 stone lighter and felt good in myself so crazy me signed up again for the 17-9-16 UWCB.
One of my friends Lisa Swift fancied doing it as well this time, so before the training started I was sparring with her to get her fitness up plus it kept my fitness up as well. This time in training I started to do double training sessions, one straight after the other, and pushed myself even harder to get myself fitter, I haven’t felt my body ache so much!
The trainers have told me how much I’ve improved and it’s good to hear, but it just makes me work harder and the weight has just dropped off me. At the half way point of training I’d lost 5 and half stone!
I get off the subway train and walk down the hill into D.U.M.B.O (Down under the Manhattan bridge overpass), a picturesque, cobbled street area of Brooklyn, New York. The spectacular Manhattan bridge in the distance framing this coffee shop and bakery filled part of the city. I am trying to take it all in and enjoy the scenery but, I’m moving at a pace that reflects my excitement for what is just around the corner at 130 Water Street…
Gleason’s Gym. Yes. Gleason’s Gym: a boxing institution since 1937 and I am, a lifelong fan of the art of pugilism, about to walk through its famous doors. These doors, this gym, synonymous with world champion boxers for decades. It has seen a procession of great fighters from era after era after era; Jake LaMotta, Roberto Duran and Mike Tyson have trained here. Muhammad Ali, at that time Cassius Clay, trained here in preparation for shaking up the World against Sonny Liston in 1964 to claim his first world title. A true Mecca of boxing.
Today I have two appointments at Gleason’s, my first with David Lawrence PhD, the King of White Collar Boxing and following that, a training session with former world champion, Iran Barkley. A man who shared the ring with Nigel Benn, Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns. WOW. What a day ahead.
I am greeted at the door by Jieun Lee (June) who is aware I’m coming and makes me feel especially welcome, she puts my nerves at ease immediately. She gives me the gym tour. Gleason’s has a plethora of boxing equipment amongst maybe 10-15 rings. Surrounding the training area are the trainer/manager’s offices. June takes me to the deep back left corner of the building to David’s office. I am not sure what to expect but I am met by a small, straggly older guy with a huge smile… This is David Lawrence, self-proclaimed King of White Collar Boxing. The epitome of the phrase never judge a book by its cover, as I am about to find out.
We go into a small office, his desk full of books, shelves full of trophies and walls covered in newspaper articles all about him.
His story begins.
At the age of 43, in 1990, David wanted to box; mainly to annoy his wife who had insisted he gave up his love of riding motorbikes for a less dangerous hobby. He was too old to fight in US amateur bouts as the maximum age to compete was 35, so the man he is, he hatched a plan.
White Collar Boxing was his brainchild and together with Gleason’s Gym the first combatants were readied and the White Collar Boxing scene was created. David fought attorney Doc Novick at a hugely successful and glamorous New York City event in what was dubbed ‘The most educated bout in the history of pugilism’, doctor vs lawyer. WCB events have been a popular and regular occurrence in NYC and the US ever since.
I sat with David for an hour or so and he regaled me in his time as a millionaire CEO on Wall Street, his life as a rapper, writer and poet, fighting on a Julio Cesar Chavez undercard, oh, and a two-year prison sentence for tax evasion. A very colourful story of riches to rags and a very entertaining human. As the tale was at an end, he had a question for me.
“What brings you to talk to me?” he asked.
“Well David” I replied,
In 2009 your story reached Derby, UK, and Ultra White Collar Boxing was born. UWCB started as it meant to go on, offering the opportunity to people of all shapes, sizes, ages, fitness and ability levels to train for 8 weeks, free of charge, in preparation for a bout at a big event in front of their family and friends. Their obligation to us? Raise money for the event’s selected charity. So basically… get fit, learn how to box, make a difference to people in need and be a superstar on the event night.
“Tell me more Tom, it sounds amazing” David said. He was not taking credit but was fascinated with how his idea had been grown and developed.
I continued, in 2014 we made the decision for participants to raise money for Cancer Research UK (CRUK), a cause close to all our hearts. Events in more towns and cities followed, more and more money raised for CRUK. 6 years later it is 2020 and UWCB is in over 100+ UK towns and cities, as well as events in Poland and Australia have added to the calendar and over £20 MILLION raised for CRUK with over 15,000 participants per year competing at our events.
This, in real terms, equates to thousands of lives changed both in getting people fit, healthy and motivated, not to mention where the charity money is donated and the difference CRUK makes to the fight against cancer. We continue to expand and improve year upon year and offer all-comers the chance to take part in our ground-breaking events all over the country and the world.
The King is silent in his chair. Pondering how the loss of his beloved motorcycle sparked an idea that has touched the lives of many and will continue to do so for many more.
At UWCB we are proud of the experience we offer; a safety-first, charity-driven and socially improving product that we strive to continually enhance for our participants and spectators.
To take part is as easy as clicking a link and filling in your details; starting on your path to making a difference in your life and to the lives of those you care about in this battle against Cancer.
Chat over I give David the red UWCB cap. The King and his crown. He gives me a massive hug and thanks me for sharing the UWCB story with him and I thank him for sharing his. He is smiling yet emotional, happy and proud. So, he should be. Gamechanger.
I leave the office feeling as high as a kite. It is then I’m met by the former World Champion. Iran ‘The Blade’ Barkley.
“You Tom?” he mutters.
“Ready to go to work?”
“Always ready” I reply. I am not. I’m unfit, out of practice bloke with nowhere near the quality to be training in this esteemed company and setting but I’m certainly not going to pass up on this chance.
Treadmill, skipping rope, warm-up done. We climb into the ring, June, accommodating as she is, filming and taking photos of the session. We move around a little, I, tentatively throwing punches and combos Iran commands. Nervous. After the first round we laugh, joke and I relax.
Jab, double jab. Double jab, right hand, slip, right hand again.
“Boom! Tom you got something in that right!” Iran declares. I can’t hide my smile. As a boxing fan… historian, if you will. I feel absolutely overwhelmed at the praise. We complete 7/8 rounds in the ring before finishing with 3 rounds on the heavy bag. The gym walls covered with photographs of boxing legends of the past. One cannot help but be inspired here.
I thank Iran and leave via David’s office where he hugs me again and gives me a signed copy of his book, ‘The King of White Collar Boxing’, good title. Then I go into the main office where I hold a genuine WBC belt above my head in victory pose and finally the gift shop. Why not?.
I have felt this good on only a few occasions in my life. Today has been special. I feel like I’ve given David recognition that’s given him immense pride. UWCB would not be here if not for him. I am equally proud of the work we do at UWCB. We do inspire, we do help people change their lives for the better and we do put on phenomenal events and raise millions of pounds for CRUK.
I’d truly encourage anyone to get involved in UWCB. Have a go and make yourself and those around you proud and yes, you, reading this, that includes you.
I started working for Ultra Events in 2015 and in 2016 I joined Cancer Research UK. My role involves supporting Ultra’s amazing participants in their fundraising efforts and doing everything I can to help them smash their fundraising goals. I am on hand to offer support and answer any fundraising questions participants may have throughout the whole 8-week journey via Facebook, email and phone.
I loved the idea of taking part in an event, but I never thought I’d pluck up the courage to actually do it. I constantly encouraged people across the UK do to something amazing yet having not done it myself felt hypocritical.
In the summer of 2018, my amazing auntie and childhood best friend was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour at just 54. This is what pushed me to face my fears and sign up to the next UWCB event in Derby on April 6th 2019.
“The fight I would face would be nothing compared to what my auntie was going through.”
On Tuesday 5th February I attended a registration meeting to mark the beginning of my journey. At the meeting we learnt about what the experience would be like, when training would be and the requirements for taking part. The meeting made it feel very real and I wondered if I had gone completely crazy! I was nervous and excited, and I left the meeting feeling motivated, excited and reassured.
The following Monday it was time to start the 8 weeks of free training provided by UWCB. I’d never set foot in a boxing gym before and One Nation Boxing Club in Derby was like no gym I’d ever been to. It was a bit daunting at first, but it soon became like a second home, I fell in love with the sport and I couldn’t keep away. The trainers Clifton, Mikey and Latty were knowledgeable, supportive and encouraging at every session. The training was tough but brilliant, I lost weight, felt fitter than I had in years and it improved my mental health. 12 months on I still train at the gym when I can, sometimes taking my 5-year-old daughter along too, with trainers I now consider friends.
The eight weeks flew by and before you knew it, I was at the match up evening at a local bar where I found out who my opponent was. There was a lot of excitement in the air, we had a professional photographer and an MC there who called out all the match ups.
“Once I knew who my opponent was, I was raring to go for the main event.”
On the morning of the event I arrived at the roundhouse in the early afternoon for my prefight medical. It was surreal to see the venue empty and set up ready for my friends and family to arrive.
Fight night will go down as one of the best experiences of my life. It was terrifying but getting into the ring in front of 1500 people including all my family and friends was exhilarating.
I was not prepared for quite how proud my friends and family would be after the fight. My friends were completely in awe of me, my dad cried, and my phone didn’t stop ringing for 48 hours afterwards. I felt like a real-life celebrity.
I lived, breathed and LOVED the whole UWCB experience and raised £2,500 for Cancer Research UK in the process.
Sadly, in July 2019 just 3 months after my fight my auntie lost her battle. I will continue to fundraise for Cancer Research UK until we eventually win the big fight against cancer.
If you are thinking about signing up, don’t think about it just click here and do it! It will be the best thing you have ever done.
8 weeks ago on 10th July, I found myself questioning my sanity. Sitting in my car outside Rigs gym, trying to work up the courage to get out and go inside, every part of me was already regretting my decision to sign up. My heart rate was through the roof, I was sweating and already had nervous butterflies…..and I hadn’t even made it through the door yet! However, I was there and not willing to give up before I had even started and so I had no choice but to take a deep breath and head inside.
I spend my weekends dressing as a princess to entertain kids, walking into that gym for the first time put me further out of my comfort zone than I’d ever been. It took everything inside me not to turn around and head straight back out of the door. The only thing that kept me there was the thought of why I was doing it (well that and by quitting now, I’d lose every ounce of my dignity considering how many people I’d already told about it).
“I signed up in memory of my best friend Annie, who sadly passed away three years ago from cervical cancer”
I signed up in memory of my best friend Annie, who sadly passed away three years ago from cervical cancer, days after her son was born. Before she passed away she asked me, “If I die, will you shave your hair off to raise money?” At the time, I had no idea how poorly Annie was and so I jokingly agreed, deep down believing she was going to kick cancer’s butt. Having bottled shaving my head, I wanted to fulfil my promise and do something equally terrifying and out of my comfort zone. Having never done ANY form of sport, I thought UWCB was the perfect event to do. I was determined to approach it with the same strength, resilience and determination that Annie displayed until the end.
From that first week, it was clear that the training was going to be brutal; star jumps, burpees, squats, more star jumps, squat-thrusts, press-ups, even more, star jumps, sit-ups, planks and a few more star jumps thrown in for good measure. I woke up the morning after that first session unable to put any weight on my calf, I was more than prepared to throw the towel in. In my desperation to come up with an excuse that I couldn’t continue with the process, I managed to convince myself that I had a serious muscular injury. Funnily enough, it turned out that perhaps my lack of cardiovascular based physical activity had something to do with why I now felt like I had been hit by a bus. And then reversed back over. Twice.
By the time my next training date rolled around, the constant ‘cramp-of-death’ tightness in my calves had eased rendering my “I’m injured”excuse void. Off I went to session two – using my entire drive there to try and concoct another reasonable cause for exemption! However, to my complete surprise, it felt like the entire hour flew by and as the days passed, I found that I was actually starting to enjoy the training – in fact, some small twisted part of me started to actually look forward to it (I know, I can’t believe it either!!). I even brought my own head guard and roped my poor unsuspecting dad and brother into sparring with me in the garden – much to their delight.
“I found that I was actually starting to enjoy the training”
As the weeks flew by (funny how fast 8 weeks go when you know you’re going to be getting punched in the face at the end of it). The atmosphere and spirit within the gym got better and better. Although most would assume that the hardest part of boxing is being hit, it’s actually just as hard (and if not harder!) hitting someone else. I lost count of the times that I apologised after landing a blow – it seems I needed to work on my fighting talk!
As the big fight night got closer and we had moved from drills to sparring. This was the BIGGEST shock to the system ever, it’s amazing the effect that being in a ring has on your adrenaline and ability to remember any kind of skill whatsoever. I was enjoying the whole process so much that I even started to believe that I may actually be able to do this and pretend to be a real-life boxer for a night. I had gone from ‘all the gear, no idea’ to ‘Whitey the Mighty’ and I enjoyed telling people about it and listening to their (mainly useless) tips and hints ranging from “counter with your defensive” to “just knock her out” (neither of which I managed to pull off)!
In the blink of an eye, we were completing our final week, attending the match-up and arriving at the venue all ready for the big night. The culmination of 8 weeks of blood, sweat (from areas I had never even realised it was possible to sweat from) and tears (ohhhh so many tears!) was finally upon us and suddenly, everything that had seemed like some kind of bizarre future nightmare became very, very real. Money raised (over £1,600 in total for Cancer Research UK), hair plaited, medical passed, friends and family in their ringside seats, I was as ready as I was going to be!
Now, I would like to apologise to our amazing trainer Sam but I’m not going to sugar coat this – the fight itself was the hardest physical (and mental) thing I have ever, done and I hated every single second of those six minutes in the ring! (No really, no exaggeration here, I really, really hated it!!). If I’m honest, I don’t remember a great deal of details about the fight itself as it felt like it passed in a huge blur of shots (mainly to my face). I took everything she had, I gave her everything I had left back! Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough on the night and my opponent was crowned the (very worthy) winner. I finished knowing that I had left everything that I had in that ring, and in the respect of having done myself proud, I could walk out of the venue a winner.
So Ultra White Collar boxing – what can I say?
As a challenge, I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. 8 weeks ago, I was a girl who secretly battles every day against a lack of confidence and self-esteem, convinced that she wasn’t going to get to the end. On Saturday 1st September, that same girl left the ring. Now she also is starting to believe that she is, in fact, strong and able enough to do so much more than she had ever thought possible. For that alone, I owe the whole experience and everyone involved in it so very, very much.
Would I do it again?
Well in answer to that, If you check eBay you will find one pair of gloves, boxing boots, head guard and hand wraps listed as a bundle deal – perfect for someone else to take up the challenge to help punch cancer in the face and raise money for this truly incredible cause.
As Floyd Mayweather said, “Everyone is blessed with a certain talent, you have to know what that talent is….you have to maximise it and push it to the limit.” I think it’s fairly safe to say that my talent doesn’t lie in fighting (and trust me, I am more than OK with that). I have made a promise to my mum to stick to chocolate detoxes and sponsored walks from now on! So now, this is ‘The Mighty Whitey’ signing off for one last time… just ‘Whitey’ suits me fine!!