Through a haze of bright lights and lasers, the unimposing frame of 32-year-old Canadian Keriann “Ko” O’Rourke appeared, while dance beats pulse through the auditorium. She dances up the catwalk towards the ring to meet with her Kiwi opponent, friend, and fellow teacher Jemma “The Hammer” Hooykaas for six minutes of adrenaline-fuelled boxing. Expat Living is there, and Jade McLean meets up later with the victorious Keriann.
Two years ago, Keriann attended one of Vanda Promotion’s IFS White Collar Boxing (WCB) events and, like most of us after a couple of glasses of bubbly, thought, “Yeah, I could do that.” However, unlike most of us, Keriann actually went on to fight in the 2012 and 2013 events, triumphing in the latter. “Yes, a little bit of wine probably helped in the decision-making process!” she sheepishly admits.
How does it feel when you step into the ring?
The ring is pretty intense. You have tons of adrenaline and you’re trying really hard to concentrate and focus on the moment and remember all the strategies you were taught. But both of you want to win so badly that strategy often goes right out the window. The biggest thing is to shut out all the screaming and shouting, and concentrate. Easier said than done.
Also, to hit and be hit is completely exhausting. It is so much more difficult than sparring or any workout you do. You are trying desperately to make every punch do some damage, and it is exhausting to do that for a full two minutes, non-stop. You really don’t notice the pain of getting punched because the adrenaline is pumping through your body. It’s more after the fact that things become sore.
Can anyone enter?
Yes, but you have to fill out a long questionnaire; they want to know if you’re committed to the training and whether you’re going to be serious about improving your fitness and helping the charity in addition to working full-time.
How did you train for the event?
I led a very different lifestyle compared to the one I was leading beforehand. You’ve got to lose the booze and you need a lot of protein to build muscle to give you strength to throw the punches.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to compete?
Start dieting and running even before you know you’re in.
Is boxing a “man’s world”?
Not at all! The girls are fast and determined to prove a point.
Where do the funds raised by the WCB event go?
The Children’s Surgical Centre in Cambodia, a last resort for people who’ve been turned away by the regular hospitals. It’s on the outskirts of Phnom Penh and the staff works incredibly hard. I’ve never seen people in more desperate need than at this hospital.
Funds raised by the boxing squad in 2012: $15K
Funds raised in 2013: $58K
All proceeds go to the Children’s Surgical Centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.