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Middy-weight: Pippa the party-planner dons her boxing gloves
Copyrighted by Rosamund Urwin
September 21, 2013
Photo: Paul Dallimore


(SEPT 21) When not penning her party tips, Pippa can now be found donning a pair of boxing gloves. And she’s not the only toff enjoying a good pummelling, as Rosamund Urwin reports Pippa the party-planner has become Pippa the party-planning pugilist. Middle Middy, the quasi-royal whose bottom made the Kate ’n’ Wills nuptials bearable for the nation’s perverts, revealed at the weekend that she has taken up boxing training.

In a column for the Telegraph which so often crossed the line into self-parody that satirists soon realised they had nothing left to milk from Ms Middleton (“this dingy location — a former air-raid shelter — under a railway arch was a club, but not the sort I was familiar with: no VIP areas here” etc), she praised the ancient art: “It’s a remedy for the mind, body and soul, both exhilarating and exhausting.”

Apparently, she was attracted to the sport to strengthen her biceps for cross-country skiing and because she wanted the body of Hilary Swank in the 2004-film Million Dollar Baby (this dated reference allowed her a little plug for Vanity Fair, who photographed Swank and where our Pip is also a columnist. You can’t claim the girl isn’t savvy).

She has been donning her gloves at Fitzroy Lodge, the amateur boxing club on Lambeth Road which also houses a project intended to help disadvantaged youngsters through sport. But at the weekend, she’ll be back among the toffs at the Boodles Boxing Ball, a black-tie charity do held at Grosvenor House Hotel and backed by the jeweller. This event, the fourth of its kind, is perhaps the ultimate indication that pugilism has gone posh. You can tell how fancy it is from the fact that on the committee sits a van Cutsem, the family who spawned the grumpy-bridesmaid-turned-internet-meme from the royal wedding.

A thousand guests will attend the dinner on Saturday to watch their friends fight. In previous years, William and Kate, Prince Harry and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie have cheered from the sidelines as punches were thrown, and it was one of the committee members who advised Pippa to pick up the pads herself.

“It’s a London society event and the guests are London society types,” says James Amos, Boodles’ marketing director, a member of the family which runs the business and one of the organisers of the ball. “It’s black tie and glamorous, a snapshot of society and fashion, combining a smart evening and boxing. It’s not corporate, it’s put on by friends for friends. We always say that you should know everyone in the room by a maximum of one degree of separation.”

Guests are 50-50 male-female, with some tables of just women, and tend to range from 25 to 40, although some parents of competitors turn up too for support. “It’s not a group of men standing around drinking beer,” adds Amos. “I think there’s a view of boxing events that they are spit and sawdust. Boxing is a sport that no one necessarily thought they knew anything about or wanted to go to but when you see your friends taking part in events like this, it’s an amazing spectacle.”

Amos believes this event has helped make boxing popular among the posh set: “Without wanting to sound arrogant, we are partially responsible for this trend — we see a lot of other events popping up, intended to appeal to a similar crowd.”

The 12 boxers include multi-millionaire film-maker Arthur Landon, who partied in Las Vegas with Prince Harry when the fourth in line to the throne was snapped in the buff, and some other posh chaps with names such as Balthazar, Owain and Fraser. They train for nine months, and there is a waiting list of men keen to join.

If they want to keep it up, boxing promoter Mickey Helliet is opening a gym on Limehouse Basin aimed at City professionals won over by the post-Olympic image of boxing as a sport for “elite athletes rather than fighters”.

But boxing clearly isn’t just for boys. Sonja Moses, boxing co-ordinator at Kensington gym Equinox, believes its increased popularity among women is a form of female empowerment: “There’s been a big shift. Women like knowing they can protect themselves. It’s unexpected when someone looks lovely and feminine and then comes out with a perfect punch.” She points to the foul-mouthed teen heroine of Kick Ass, Hit-Girl, played by Chloe Moretz: “She is very girly, down-to-earth, then all of a sudden she does all this cool stuff with her fists.”

Moses teaches a new class called Shadow Smashbox, which involves skipping, shadow-boxing, kettle bells and a bleep test where you have to keep up on both punches and sprints. She adds that women often graduate from that to Equinox’s boxing studio.

Now if Pippa moved from room to ring, could a boxing advice guide one day be in the offing? The first tip seems easy to predict: hit the other person harder and more often than they hit you.

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