Battling for a Cause: Catching Up with Three Executive Fight Night XI Boxers

Executive Fight Night (EFN) is just two weeks away, and the excitement for the event is palpable. The 11th EFN charity gala will be held at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, in Roppongi Hills, on May 26. 

We sat down with three of the 18 amateur boxers, two of them female, and all from Japan’s business community. 

Megumi (Meg) Sakuma is from Fukushima Prefecture, but has lived in Tokyo for more than 20 years. Eight years ago, she co-founded Oishii Co., Ltd., a provider of bespoke tours across Tokyo for expats and tourists.

Hiroko Kasahara is a native of Tokyo, has spent most of her career in the finance industry, and heads the compliance division of Evolution Japan Securities Co., Ltd., a brokerage and investment firm.

Erik Almadrones is from New York City, and has been in Japan for about five years. He is a partner at multinational EY Strategy and Consulting Co, Ltd., where he leads the company’s customer and growth practice in the APAC region, including Japan. 

Though they come from different walks of life, they are all united by a single, good cause: raising funds for Shine On! Kids. EFN is organized by the non-profit organization that was founded in 2006 to support children with cancer and other serious illnesses. All proceeds from the gala event go directly to one of Shine On! Kids’ key initiatives, its Hospital Facility Dog Program.

The program pairs a dog that is specially trained to work in a children’s hospital with a nurse as its handler. Together they visit one hospital every day as part of the medical team, helping the sickest children. Shine On! Kids placed the first full-time hospital facility dog team in Japan at Kanagawa Children’s Hospital in 2010. Since then, six dogs trained to international service dog standards have been placed in children’s hospitals. They each make 1,500 to 3,000 patient visits a year, helping children and their families to get through difficult treatments and encouraging them in their rehabilitation.

Ready to Rumble

Erik Almadrones

Erik, Meg, and Hiroko have been training for EFN since February. This leads one to ask: how is it going? Has preparation for fight night completely taken up their days, or have they found a sense of work-train-life balance?

Erik said he trains most days—“even on so-called ‘rest days.’” He is very intentional about his recovery, meaning he either walks on an inclined treadmill or jumps onto his bike daily, in addition to attending twice-weekly training sessions at Club 360. 

“Right now I feel great, actually. My mind is in a good spot. I’m waking up early everyday. I’m motivated and ready to go,” he added. 

Meg is equally upbeat, if a little concerned about her training sessions. Why? Because this year, there is only one match between women—that between her and Hiroko—so she has to spar with men. 

“They’re always gentle with me, but I go 100 percent,” she said, laughing, when thinking of her sessions at Club 360. “Everyday I still have muscle pain somewhere,” she admits. “But it’s a good kind of pain.”

Hiroko’s preparation, meanwhile, is focused on the mental and physical side of the fight. Perhaps owing to her day job as a compliance expert, she is driven by a desire to identify and reduce risk.

“In boxing,” she said, “you have to attack and use your guard—and you have to cover your weaknesses and reduce risk. It’s generally a good thing to be able to reduce risk.” 

Motivating Factor

Megumi (Meg) Sakuma

That being said, all three volunteer fighters are willing to risk a black eye or bruised rib—or, indeed, eat some humble pie—in front of family, friends, colleagues and more. And they’ll do it for a good cause. 

For Erik, the motivation to join EFN—for his second appearance, as it happens, having won his bout last year—can be broken down in two ways. 

“One was, can you challenge yourself in a situation where you might get hurt in front of your family, friends, and 400 other people who are paying to watch a fight for charity?” The answer was yes!

The other motivating factor was the opportunity to meet the kids and their Facility Dogs: “I am a dog lover. I know the healing power that dogs can have. To be able to see that in a situation with kids that really need it is another big motivation.”

Hiroko felt the same way, sharing: “I usually try to avoid risk. But if it’s for a good cause, like Shine On! Kids, I will take a risk. Because there is a cause—that is, kids who are fighters—it gives me courage.”

Meg shared similar sentiments, adding that, in her case, she may have been tricked into taking part by the co-founder of her company: “My business partner, Naoko, invited me to the 2018 event, describing it as a ‘black-tie event that’s super-fun.’” 

The following year, Naoko offered Meg a voucher to attend boxing classes at Club 360: “I had totally forgotten about it [her promise to participate in EFN, when Naoko gave her the voucher]. I thought: ‘Why is she giving me this?’” The rest is history.

Fight for Life

Hiroko Kasahara

The bell to start the first round of EFN XI is about to be rung. This begs yet another question: what do Erik, Meg, and Hiroko predict? Can the audience expect quick knockouts or a drawn-out duel, or a mix of both?

Rather touchingly, all three fighters were focused on their own performance—and the cause itself, Shine On! Kids—rather than what they may or may not do to their opponent. 

“My goal is to overcome this difficulty and to overcome my fear. I actually love this sport, so I want to be a better boxer,” Hiroko shared. 

Erik and Meg hoped to perform well in part because they feel that they have put in the work. When you trust the process, Erik said, “the results should come out well.”

Ultimately, all three agreed that, while they may be fighting for a variety of personal, though perhaps not critical, reasons, “the kids are fighting for their lives,” they shared.


Recommended: Executive Fight Night 2023—Duking It Out for a Worthy Cause and Cryo Tokyo Takes a Supercool Approach to Well-Being 

Share this Story