Raj Nagra on how (and why) he started the Bartender Boxing Organization

Story by Raj Nagra

About six years ago I embarked on a personal mission to launch a Boxing platform in support our industries health. Three years ago, we got our first break in the US and were off and running. Since then a lot has happened this year, including my leaving the brand world after 18-years in the pursuit of growing the Bartender Boxing non-profit brand internationally.

Having worked in the Sydney bar scene for many years from the early 90’s, David Spanton and I go back to the beginning of Bartender Magazine. When he expressed excitement around our platform and consequently offered his support on the launch of Bartender Boxing in Sydney during Bar Week, well we pounced on the opportunity to fast-track our arrival into Australia.

Being based in LA, the first step was to find the right person to represent and manage Bartender Boxing in Australia and create an unforgettable event for our organization during Bar Week. That was easy as Marky Tarrant and I first worked together at Middle Bar, Sydney in early 2000. Mark has a wealth of experience in the industry and in Boxing and Muay Thai. Mark has been working tirelessly with Combat Sports Australia and the Amateur Boxing league to get the program and the event sanctioned and ready for Bar Week.

We depend on brand support to fund our platform and I have to and say that I felt quite confident coming home to leverage the relationships I had developed over the years. Let’s just say that – and not from a lack of interest – a lot of the brands we approached either couldn’t gain the approvals or the funding in time for our first showing in Australia.

If I could rewind the past three months and do this again – I wouldn’t change a thing! Why you ask? Because this experience has been challenging and fun! Because this is a very special industry and I never doubted that we couldn’t pull this off! Because we built partnerships with those brand people that would go out of their comfort zone to support our initiative, and frankly the support of our industry and friends has been so overwhelming that it demonstrates just how much our sponsors collectively care about the health of our industry.

What we do is train bartenders for several months in changing their day to day habits, breaking the cycle and adding a whole new level of discipline to their daily routines. This results in not only learning a lifelong skill, but learning about themselves, becoming more confident and better at life, work or otherwise. This initiative demands real sacrifice and hard work, but these bartenders gain a new family and learn to master themselves. We couldn’t be prouder of the Sydney Bartender Boxing team; they are just such amazing individuals!

The result is to compete under the lights and in front of friends and our industry in sanctioned amateur level bouts.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

? Mahatma Gandhi

I would love to thank our initial and fearless brand sponsors who supported the journey of change for our Sydney Bartender Boxers. They have been instrumental in our Sydney launch; genuinely believe in our cause and have a true sense of responsibility to our industry. A massive thank-you to:

  • David Spanton from Bartender Magazine as our official media partner and for believing in us!
  • Tanya Mah from the House of Angostura for her unwavering support!
  • Jason Crawley from Crawley’s Bartender Syrups for being a dear mate and for not thinking twice!
  • Mikey Enright from Enright’s Gin for always being an epic legend!
  • Alex Merry from Brooklyn Brewery for taking a punt on us!
  • Andrew Skehan from Sailor Jerry for making things happen!
  • James France from Vanguard Luxury Brands for pulling the right strings!

And to our benevolent knights in shining armor, who stepped up to support:

  • Anton Forte from Swillhouse Group
  • Mikey Enright from Barber Shop and Duke of Clarence
  • Leeroy Peterson from Caribou Kingston
  • Lou Dare from Employees Only
  • Sam Egerton from Merivale
  • Hamish Watts from Applejack hospitality
  • Troy Kelly from Barmetrix
  • Dre Waters from Bar Geek
  • Michael Silvers from Uber Bar Tools
  • Nick Van Tiel from Dibby Dibby Sound System

To our unsung heroes:

  • Mark Tarrant from Miss Moneypenny’s and Fat Freddy’s Broadbeach for taking on the role of managing Bartender Boxing Australia 
  • Jason Jelicich from Momento Group for getting behind our industries health and driving us forward
  • Josh King and his team at Corporate Fighter for supporting us and training our Sydney team

So, what now? Come along on Sunday September 15 to Home Nightclub and support our amazing Sydney Bartender Boxers as they compete in official amateur bouts, support Black Dog mental health, enjoy the sounds from NVT and help us celebrate! This has been thirsty work and we’d love to have you there.

You can get your tickets and support this great cause here.

And check them out on Facebook here.