Boxing – “The Sweet Science of Bruising”

In 2012, Jonathan Crompton, was attending his third white collar boxing event as a spectator. A few years of playing recreational rugby and post-game socialising helped him to his heaviest weight ever. After a few courses of dinner and a few rounds of fighting, the usual conversation started... “So, who’s going to fight next time?”

Crompton had been tempted to try boxing since attending his first white collar fight because of the fitness training, but boxing turned out to be more than just another challenge. Two white collar fights later, Crompton credits boxing with kick-starting a transformation of body and mind. Now a partner at RPC, he enjoys training friends for their first fight, while contemplating a return for his third.

Violence or professionalism

Not all changes to boxing since the Marquess of Queensbury rules in 1867 have been positive. The youngest ever world heavyweight champion was a notorious ear biter and convicted rapist. The self-proclaimed ‘best ever’ just retired with a 50-0 professional record after beating a mixed martial artist with no professional boxing record, for a pay-out exceeding US$100 million.

Yet there are lots of lawyers involved in boxing. Bob Arum, founder and CEO of Top Rank Boxing, graduated from Harvard Law School and was a US Department of Justice attorney before being asked by the Nation of Islam to represent Mohammed Ali. In Hong Kong, there are many partners and associates in law firms who are current or former boxers, including a welterweight with a 38-0 record.

Crompton explains why, as a busy lawyer, he enjoys boxing.

The ‘Sweet Science’

Most boxers are skilled professionals like Manny Pacquiao and Nicola Adams, rather than violent thugs. The whole ethos of boxing aligns with legal professionalism:

Diligence – The initial ‘boot camp’ was hard. As was the second, third, fourth... That’s the point. With each training session harder than the last, you become fitter and stronger. Mohammed Ali said “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights”. Similarly, maximising your client’s chances of the best outcome involves hard work. I no longer wish people luck – if you need luck you haven’t done enough. Instead I tell people they’ve worked hard for it.

  • Focus – The prospect of someone punching you in the face is very motivating. Training for a fight takes time and lawyers are generally busy. Finding time to train is a good exercise in removing distractions, cutting down excess socialising, and ensuring you are well-rested.
  • Resilience – Sparring with a more experienced boxer teaches you about your weaknesses. This applies to the law too. Lawyers also don’t like losing. Harnessed correctly, though, defeat provides motivation to work harder, for the ring or for Court. As Rocky Balboa says “It’s not about how hard you get hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward”. Coping with adversity is called “rolling with the punches” for a reason, and it’s an enormously beneficial skill for lawyers.
  • Respect – Boxing builds friendships and a community. Friendships after fighting (think Rocky and Apollo) are commonplace, with your training buddies, your sparring partners, and your opponent. Knowing that someone can take your hardest punches and still move forward breeds respect.
  • Humility – No one achieves greatness alone. We all need a teacher, a mentor, a training buddy, and a sparring partner. Boxing helped me realise that asking for help and learning from others is not a weakness, but a strength.
  • Charity – We also benefit from giving. When filming Ip Man 3, Mike Tyson visited the Hong Kong Police Boxing Club and the Operation Breakthrough’s boxing programme ( Vanda has raised more than US$2 million for the Children’s Surgical Centre in Cambodia, most coming from donations at White Collar Fight Nights in Hong Kong and Singapore. Through boxing, we can give back to communities we would not normally reach.
  • The fight – A time-warping combination of anticipation, nerves, adrenaline, breathlessness, frustration, uncertainty, achievement and pride. There is nothing like fighting in a ring… and nothing like having fought. Bring on number 3.

Getting involved

Hong Kong has several specialist boxing gyms within a short walk from offices and the MTR. DEF (Rex Tso’s gym), Impakt (Alain Ngalani’s), and JAB provide one-on-one training and small-group boxing sessions.

Gyms like Pure and Fitness First also have ‘Body Combat’ classes and personal boxing trainers.


RPC, Partner

Jonathan is a Partner of RPC, advising clients in litigation before national courts, in arbitrations and in direct settlement negotiations.

He helps clients navigate complex cross-border disputes, specialising in litigation and investigations involving the financial services industry. He also has extensive experience representing licensed corporations and individuals in investigations by the Securities and Futures Commission.