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May 15, 2014

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Brawl on the Bund creator expands boxing

BOXING events in Shanghai seems to be moving to a grassroots level through the efforts of Shane Benis, a British expat living in the city.

Benis is the figure behind the Brawl on the Bund and Brawl on the Wall White Collar boxing events that target office workers.

He is now also the man behind the launch of Shanghai Fight Night, an exhibition for China-based fighters to help them gain access to sponsors for training and career development.

“Boxing is an incredible discipline. And this is apparent when you meet boxers all over the world; they are for the most part humble, soft-spoken and soft-tempered people,” Benis says.

“Boxing teaches some very important values at a grassroots level, such as the importance of respect and control. For white-collar boxers, the health benefits are obvious and it’s fantastic for stress relief,” he adds.

Arriving in Shanghai in 2006 from England, Benis was intrigued by the city and its people. To him, it is “a land of opportunity.”

“I was getting away from my family business,” he says. “My father’s business is based in Uganda and he’s very successful. This casts a big shadow. I decided to venture out on my own rather than work for the family.

“I chose the farthest city away that I could think of,” he says. “I wanted to work for myself and achieve something completely on my own.”

Noticing that there was a lack of boxing events in China, in 2008 Benis co-launched China’s first white-collar boxing event, Brawl on the Bund, in Shanghai. It is a black-tie event with 300 guests featuring seven boxing matches between regular people from across the city who have trained for three months to be amateur boxers.

Any white-collar professional between the ages of 20 and 50 is welcome, whether they are working men or women, Chinese or expat.

The prerequisite for sign-ups is that potential fighters have not had any previous formal boxing experience (they can’t have fought professionally).

Benis launched Golden Gloves Gym, Shanghai’s top boxing gym, in 2011, with both amateur and professional boxers across the city now calling it home.

It got to a point where Benis ran several White Collar Boxing events, and he decided it was time to start producing professional boxing events. In order to do this legally, Benis set up China Sports Promotions last year.

“I had no idea four years ago that I’d be putting events on full time,” he says. “Before boxing events I was selling heavy machinery from China to East Africa, and then in 2009 I was trading oil in Dubai before moving back to Shanghai and setting up the company.”

The goal of China Sports Promotions is to take boxing to the next level across China with the involvement of young Chinese boxers.

“We want people to have the best night of the year at every boxing event they come to. We also want the experience of fighting in one of our events to be unique for both the white-collar and professional fighters who take part,” Benis says.

“The fights have got to be a fair match, and fairly adjudicated. We don’t manage fighters yet, but it’s something we’ll definitely look at in the future once we have built a solid foundation where we can continue to host more and more regular events,” he says.

Benis has held about 10 boxing events across China, with Brawl on the Bund in Shanghai hosting 1,300 people in one event alone to make it one of the most anticipated black-tie events on the Shanghai social calendar. He will also launch events in Macau and Taipei.

“It’s growing at an unbelievable rate. We have gone from running just two annual Shanghai events to six events in four cities in a year. That might not sound like a lot, but when you see the scale of the event, the amount of work that goes into each and every event and the fact that over 1 million yuan has been raised for charities through Brawl events, you’ll understand that it’s an incredible feat with our tiny team,” Benis says.

Currently, Benis is busy focusing on the sponsorship for all of the coming events, including Brawl on the Bund on June 14, Mayhem in Macau at The Venetian on July 18, Brawl on the Wall (Beijing) in September and the first-ever Brawl event in Taipei, which will occur later this year.

Next year, he plans to launch in another three cities, bringing out a total of up to nine events each year.

“Most of our sponsors are foreign businesses that understand the value of sponsoring our exclusive black-tie boxing events, and now we’re looking for Chinese companies that recognize that same value. Without sponsors, the events would become less accessible for everyone,” Benis says.

“I will continue to focus on providing a platform for Chinese-based fighters with access to sponsorship for training and career development through both local and international fight nights,” he concludes.


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