Publicist Steve Martin is pleased he didn't have to pound on a banking nerd tonight. "It's actually scarier sparring with them," he confesses, chest heaving, brow dripping with sweat after three rounds in the ring taking blows from Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett, his client. "Sometimes they just lose their shit and start swinging like madmen."
But on white-collar night at the Church Street Boxing Gym, losing your shit is more common in the stands than in the ring, around which a few hundred beer-fueled toughs wearing wife-beaters and gold jewelry pack into folding chairs and scream for bloody murder. Tonight, a pudgy thirtysomething microfinance consultant will paw gloves with the lean, mean curator of a midtown art gallery. And in the Battle of the Quadragenarians, midtown securities lawyer David Richan will take on Robert Murphy, an architect who sports the remnants of a black eye. "I got it doing yard work," he insists. "I don't know why nobody'll believe me."
This is boxing for self-esteem, a little-league fight club for Masters of the Universe. They're not here to beat the crap out of each other because of bear-market rage. They're here because the ref doles out breathers after every stinging blow, the combatants hug after the fights, and everybody goes home with a trophy. "Remember, this is about having fun and the party afterwards at Mary Ann's," says gym owner Justin Blair in the training room. John Rosado, a former Golden Gloves champ who trained three fighters at the event, explains it thus: "These guys are like my children. It would kill me to see them get hurt."
"Are you gonna stick around for the party?" Richan asks Murphy. "It's out of the question," the architect replies. "The wife's waiting, and it's a two-hour commute to central Jersey." After their bout, Murphy confides that he was glad to be pitted against his fellow fortysomething. "Last time, they put me in there with a 22-year-old," he says wearily. "But this guy knows this isn't about trying to hit the other guy."