London's Stressed-Out Bankers Trade Punches

Stuart Tancred, a JP Morgan banker, trains at the Real Fight Club every day, in the heart of London's financial district, known as the City.

In a city which depends on the financial industry, times get tougher when the markets are down.

When most of his buddies go for a beer after work to relax, Tancred punches sand bags.

"I work in the city," Tancred told ABC News, "sometimes it could be stressful. If you have had a bad day, obviously it's great to come down here and work out, hit the bags, release some of that stress."

White-collar boxing started in Wall Street. It crossed the Atlantic seven years ago and has enjoyed growing success since then.


Today, the Real Fight Club claims over five hundred members.

"Most of our members are local businessmen," trainer Nick Stafford-Dietsch told ABC News. "They are white-collar people who work in banking, traders, lawyers, people who work in PR. They are professional people who are bored of just working out in a normal health club."

"I have always found normal gyms a bit boring," said Tancred. "This is different, this is a challenge."

Tancred joined the club a year ago, but he has yet to convince people at work that boxing is the right sport for a respectable banker.

"They think it's a bit strange," said Tancred, who acknowledged that eyebrows were raised when he came to work with a black eye.

Asked whether traders made good boxers, Stafford-Dietsch seemed amused. "They can. They can also make terrible boxers, but we have some very skillful people."

Tancred, 37, is no Rocky Balboa, but he was pumped for the club's annual show, where he was up against Scott Francombe, the "Smasher," a man Tancred has been unable to beat.

The fight happened at the legendary boxing venue York Hall, in London's rough East End.

The place has been hosting shows since 1929, and was saved from closure after widespread protests from locals.

That night, the atmosphere was electric at York Hall.

Herds of City boys, wearing their usual uniform of suit and white shirt, flocked to the bar to glug down one or two pints before the bell rang.

Tancred's buddies were there to support him.

"He has always enjoyed a fight," said Matt, a London teacher.

Asked what he would offer Tancred if he won, Andy, who works in advertising, said "first thing will be a beer mate, and a tap on the back definitely. He deserves a lot of respect for getting in the ring in the first place."

Meanwhile backstage, Tancred was feeling the pressure mounting slowly.

Each boxer was trying to deal with the stress in his own way.

One of them was sparring furiously in the corridor with his trainer, another locked himself inside a room to pray.

Tancred was joking with other boxers.

As the fight came closer, he vanished from the locker room. He came back with his face red and covered in Vaseline.

"I feel good," he said, "ready to go now, this is what I have been training for."

Tancred walked feverishly to the ring, with the crowd shouting and whistling.

He punched and swung as much as he could, but this was no easy fight.

He took a few blows and ended up with a bad black eye but he went the full distance.

That night, Tancred tied his opponent, a man 10 years younger than him.

And the following day, he went back to being just another one of those anonymous white collar men who swarm the city and all look the same - only his black eye gave him away.

Additional reporting by Jonathan Bierman.