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TESS VIGELAND: Investment banks on Wall Street have had a tough time lately. As we mentioned at the top of the show, most of the big firms have taken heavy losses from the subprime mortgage meltdown. Banks are slashing year-end bonuses and laying off staff.
So, finance types got a chance to blow off some steam last night. Traders from the likes of Goldman Sachs and Bear Stearns faced off in the first-ever Wall Street Charity Boxing Championship. Marketplace’s Amy Scott was ringside.
RING ANNOUNCER BERT SUGAR: Let’s get ready to ring the bell.
AMY SCOTT: It looked like any boxing tournament. Tall models in tiny dresses. Sweaty men in satin shorts. The occasional splash of blood on the canvas.
But at the Extell Wall Street Boxing Charity Championship, the fans wore black-tie and evening gowns. They paid up to $13,500 a table. And the fighters usually spend their days in suits pushing millions of dollars around.
Jarvis “The Expected Loss” Buckman won the first bout. He sells credit derivatives at Calyon. Buckman explains the nickname.
JARVIS BUCKMAN: In my business it’s a risk parameter that we use. So anybody familiar with structured credit derivatives has probably heard of the expected loss. But also it’s a warning to my opponent that I’m the expected loss on his record.
That kind of bravado works as well in the ring as it does on The Street. It’s easy to draw parallels between boxing and trading. Electricity trader Matt Preskenis — nickname “Cadillac” — lost his bout to a private-wealth consultant.
MATT PRESKENIS: Both reward people who know how to take a few hits and stay in there. I think the only difference is that, in boxing at least, you know the night you’re gonna get punched in the face. Trading, you never see it coming.
In the most exciting fight of the night, Shane “Second Coming” Kinahan of Goldman Sachs entered to a chorus of bagpipes, only to get knocked out in the first round. Listen to him hit the floor.
Kinahan’s opponent, Josh “The Matrix” Weintraub of Bear Stearns, went on to win the best fighter award — an engraved crystal champagne bucket. Unlike most of last night’s boxers, Weintraub has some experience. He boxed in college. He laughs at the comparisons to Wall Street, where most traders spend the day on a computer or the phone.
JOSH WEINTRAUB: That’d be like, you know, comparing bike riding and skydiving. It’s just no comparison. It ain’t brave sittin’ on a bond desk, all right? It’s just, you know, it’s just a job.
Another fighter, David “Minister of Pain” Smith of Lehman Brothers, lost his bout. He wanted to do something groundbreaking.
DAVID SMITH: I’m an out gay men, and there aren’t too many out gay men in boxing.
Nor on Wall Street, one might add.
SMITH: I just wanted to prove to myself and to the world that I’m not afraid to step into the ring with the meanest of ’em. That guy was pretty mean.
To get in the ring, all the fighters had to work with professional trainers — men who probably make a fraction of their incomes. USA Boxing official Mike Lemish refereed a few of the bouts. He’s seen a lot of white-collar boxers over the years. When asked how these bankers fared, Lemish is diplomatic.
MIKE LEMISH: Oh, you can see for yourself. They’re kind of on the sloppy side. I guess that’s a nice way of putting it.
In other words, stick to your day job.
In New York, I’m Amy “The Brooklyn Bruiser” Scott for Marketplace.