Banker by day, boxer by night: It's happening in London, Hong Kong and Singapore

A bout during the "Brawl at the Hall" white-collar boxing event at York Hall in Bethnal Green, London. -- PHOTO: AFP
A bout during the "Brawl at the Hall" white-collar boxing event at York Hall in Bethnal Green, London. -- PHOTO: AFP
Telecoms Director Frank O'Callaghan works at his desk at his office in London before heading to training to prepare for his fight at the "Brawl at the Hall" white-collar boxing event at York Hall. -- PHOTO: AFP
Telecoms Director Frank O'Callaghan works at his desk at his office in London before heading to training to prepare for his fight at the "Brawl at the Hall" white-collar boxing event at York Hall. -- PHOTO: AFP
A growing number of city workers are ditching the tie and lacing up the gloves for 'white-collar events'. -- PHOTO: AFP 
A growing number of city workers are ditching the tie and lacing up the gloves for 'white-collar events'. -- PHOTO: AFP 

LONDON (AFP) - Gasping for breath and bleeding from a thick lip, Nick "Suicide" Seto exits the ring. But the pain of defeat will be forgotten tomorrow when he returns to work at a London bank.

"I love winning, so it hurts, but I hope the people enjoyed the show," the 34-year-old said, trying to reassure his trembling wife.

In real life, Seto is a strategy manager at Lloyds Banking Group. But at night, he becomes a fearless and slightly reckless brawler.

He is one of a growing number of City workers who are ditching the tie and lacing up the gloves for "white-collar events" after dark.

Born in New York, the practice came to London in the early 2000s and has since spread to other financial centres such as Hong Kong and Singapore.

Following a brief warm-up, the combatants enter the lion's den accompanied by the booming music, scantily dressed ladies and raucous din usually reserved for world title fights.

They then battle for three rounds, each lasting two minutes, in the professional standard ring.

"It's almost like being a professional boxer for a night," explained Ross Adkin, organiser of the event at York Hall, the fabled London venue whose tobacco-stained walls and creaking floorboards have hosted fights for 85 years.

"White-collar boxing is growing," said Adkin, immaculately dressed in a three-piece suit. "Even banks organise their own in-house ones."

The 700-strong audience is predominantly white, male, smartly dressed and loud, many looking like extras from Hollywood movie "The Wolf of Wall Street", while the testosterone-driven atmosphere is evocative of the trading floor.

But there are risks to this white-collar boxing.

A boxer died in the ring during an event in Nottingham in June, after which the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) repeated its warning against such bouts.

"We are against white-collar boxing, it is a dangerous sport," BBBC general secretary Robert Smith told AFP. "These white-collar boxing events are people getting in the gym for a month or six weeks and then getting in the ring and they can be hurt."