Business leaders and boxing fans alike will be thrilled to see the charity boxing event Executive Fight Night (EFN) return in its 11th installment to the Grand Hyatt Tokyo on Friday May 26.
The event — managed by certified non-profit Shine On! Kids in collaboration with Club360, Empire Entertainment and other corporate partners — is raising funds for Shine On! Kids' Hospital Facility Dog Program. This program pairs a “Facility Dog”— a dog that has been specially trained for 18-24 months to work in a children’s hospital — with a “Clinician Handler,” a medical professional who has acquired the knowledge and skills for handling the facility dog. Together, they work every day at a single children’s hospital as part of the medical team, supporting the care of the sickest pediatric patients.
Fighting for Fighters
Executive Fight Night challenges individuals to step outside their comfort zone and test their physical and mental limits in boxing matches approved by the Japan Boxing Commission, all while raising money for Shine On! Kids. This year, more than 50 people from various business backgrounds tried out for EFN and 18 fighters, including two women, were chosen to compete.
Fighters train at Club 360 fitness gyms for 12 weeks to compete on the big night. For most of them, this is their first experience boxing. Being surrounded by bright lights, cameras and a huge audience — including their peers, friends and family — intensifies the pressure. These are real fights, with three two-minute rounds — so they have to take the training seriously.
It's not just for themselves, though. It's also for whom they are representing. This year's theme is "Fighting for Fighters," linking the strength and determination of the combatants with the children they are supporting.
“We're all motivated to begin with, and we're all motivated to win and to try to do well in our fights, but this is about something much bigger than any personal goal,” says Erik Almadrones, a blue team fighter and partner at EY Strategy and Consulting. “It's about the children fighting against serious illnesses and their battle to recover."
Fighters are split into two teams — red and blue — and train with experienced coaches twice a week. This year, the blue team is coached by Juni Nobuka, a former pro boxer who once represented Yonekura Boxing Gym. The red team is coached by Marco Mangani Camilli, who took third place at the amateur K-1 Open World Tournament.
The teams are coached on separate nights. Their training incorporates a mix of the basics: shadow boxing, sparring and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). All of it is vital because as much as strength and technique play into the sport, having the stamina to finish up to three rounds of boxing (especially with 16-ounce gloves) isn't easy. Additionally, fighters are encouraged to train on their own for further preparation.
While personal reasons are present, the event's intense training and its purpose — the charity and the children —give many fighters a renewed outlook.
"It reminds you life is precious. Do the best with the time that you have and just give it your all, and that's what I'm going to do in this fight," says Eddy Elsagh, director of marketing at Breitling, representing the blue team.
The fighters also had the opportunity to meet the children they are representing on April 7 at the Tokyo American Club.
"We're here to show them our support and let them know they're not fighting alone," says Kenta Yooku, sales executive at GPlusMedia and red team member. "We all are by their side, fighting together."
Shine On! Kids' Hospital Facility Dog Program
Shine On! Kids has supported children with cancer and other serious illnesses in Japan since 2006. The Hospital Facility Dog Program is one of the many programs that help to provide emotional and practical support to children and their families.
This program pairs a "Facility Dog" with a "Clinician Handler," a certified nurse with years of experience, who work daily at a children's hospital as part of the medical team. The dogs are trained for 18–24 months to visit patients' bedsides, accompany them to surgery and medical procedures, work with patients during rehab, help frightened children fall asleep, comfort family members and more.
Shiro Seto, director of Shizuoka Children's Hospital, says the dog becomes a trusted partner and friend.
"There tends to be a sense of distance between doctors and nurses and patients and families," says Seto. "The presence of the Facility Dog closes that gap and helps caregivers work together smoothly. The dog gives the kids the courage to live...They reduce stress and make our job easier to do."
Make a pledge
Executive Fight Night has raised more than ¥50 million to date, and seating for this year’s event is nearly sold out already. All the money raised from EFN — fighter pledges, auctions, raffle games and more — will go to the Shine On! Kids Facility Dog Program.
For those who cannot attend EFN in person, you can show your support by pledging a fighter.
The event will be livestreamed on the GaijinPot Instagram channel.© Japan Today