White collar boxing has seen a dramatic rise in popularity over the last few years, with countless office workers losing their shirts and ties to lace up gloves for some amped-up amateur action. Many use their fights, which are friendly but fiercely contested, to raise money for charitable causes.
Step up Ben Gilks, co-owner of Nailsea Electrical store in Bristol, who is aiming to collect £20,000 ($32,700) in donations for the Cambodia Children’s Fund to help build a school.
According to its website (www.cambodianchildrensfund.org), the CCF was founded in 2004 and provides life-changing education, nourishment and healing to vulnerable children from some of the Kingdom’s most destitute communities.
Gilks has a strong connection to Cambodia, with his father Pete setting up the region’s only cider producing company, Bruntys, out of a Phnom Penh brewery.
“I have witnessed their lives for myself, and it would break anyone’s heart to see other human beings live the way they do,” Ben wrote of Cambodian children on his JustGiving website profile, which facilitates collection of donations. At time of print, he had raised 63 per cent of his target amount.
Gilks is set to go toe to toe with Nick Adams this Saturday at The Hand Arena in Clevedon near Bristol. The night is the culmination of 10 weeks of intensive training done by the Zero to Hero Boxing organisation, described on its website (www.zerotoheroboxing.com) as a goal orientated fitness program designed to provide contenders with the opportunity of a lifetime – to become a hero in the ring.
“I always love a challenge and this is the ultimate,” Gilks told the Post. “There isn’t many things that are harder than training to be a boxer in 10 weeks from scratch and walk out in front of 2,500 people for a fight.
“I love Cambodia and to be able to make such a difference to these kids’ lives is what is driving me every day. It literally gets me out of bed.”
Entry to the competition is by now means a given, with just 40 out of 450 applicants passing fitness tests to make the grade. Gilks background in rugby, a sport he was forced to abandon after an injury required 25 staples in his head, has put him in good stead.
“To keep fit, I started boxing training as I think it’s the best form of fitness. I started to really enjoy it so it helped my decision to enter Zero to Hero.”
While getting up at 6am to go training and “having someone trying to knock your head off every night” have been listed as some of the hardships of the course, Gilks also recognises its many benefits.
“My fitness has improved a million per cent and I’ve managed to find a six pack that’s been in hiding for years,” he said, referring to his own physique rather than a discarded pack of cider bottles.
“I have massive respect for everyone who has entered this [program] and people who have done it before,” added Gilks, who noted he was really, really, really looking forward to a beer and a pizza.
“The biggest compromise for me though is not being able to see my girlfriend, Hayley, and my friends and family. They all understand though and are all looking forward to having a party after.”
Gilks will be nevertheless weary of his match-up against fellow first-time pugulist Adams.
“He is without doubt the most improved boxer – fit and strong. He has a big punch and they come from all angles. His weakness is having to fight me,” said Gilks.
“The best path to victory for me is train hard, fight easy.”
Saturday’s bouts are set to start at 6pm local time (1am Cambodian time).