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The Charge: a boxing fund-raiser to knock out poaching

We touch gloves with one of the amateur pugilists behind The Charge, a glamorous new boxing-based fundraising campaign, backed by Annabel’s, that aims to knock rhino- and elephant-poaching out for the count

Held for the first time this May, The Charge is a unique and glamorous fundraising evening in support of anti-poaching initiatives on behalf of endangered elephant and rhinoceros populations in southern Africa.

Annabel’s popped up at Syon Park, where there were four boxing matches, dinner, dancing and auctions – followed by a 1am after-party breakfast back at Annabel’s. The founding committee comprises Hickman Bacon, Francesco Ciardi, Chelsy Davy, Shaun Davy, Ben Fisher, Caroline Rupert and Michael Walker, alongside an illustrious host committee made up of Princess Eugenie of York, Konstantin von Bismarck, Missy van Straubenzee, Tom van Straubenzee, Dimitri Chandris, Lydia Forte, Ben Goldsmith, Rasha Khawaja, Aliki Lampropoulos, Omar Mangalji, Alexander Mavros, Antonia Packard, Guy Schwarzenbach, Rachel Slack, Mary Wellesley and Kate Winser.

The event’s genesis came thousands of miles away, however, on the banks of the Zambezi river. Committee member Hickman Bacon was in Zimbabwe, sitting on the deck of Shaun and Chelsy Davy’s family lodge. Also present were Michael Walker, of the Zambia-based Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, and Caroline Rupert, from the Peace Parks Foundation. The boxing evening idea happened around a conversation about the growing challenges faced by animals in Africa.

‘A lot of our discussions about wildlife had turned to conservation techniques, and in particular the problem of rhino- and elephant-poaching,’ Bacon recalls. ‘Demand for horn will never be wholly eradicated, but with funding you can increase protection - with rangers, drones, or chemicals that render the horns deadly to humans. Funding is the key.’

Thus, five months later came The Charge, the name referring to its appointed species, but also symbolic. ‘We wanted our boxing matches to reflect the urgency of the fight against poaching,’ explains Bacon. The event filled a niche, too. ‘London was crying out for something like this to raise awareness - something more fun than the standard fundraising night, with a younger target audience.’ In their enthusiasm, Shaun Davy agreed to box and Hickman Bacon said he'd fight him! ‘We’d drunk quite a few rums by then,’ he laughs.

Party-planning, organisation and execution was all undertaken by Annabel’s and Birley Events, right the way down to the decoration, including two eye-catching life-size elephants situated within the marquee. ‘We had to get the event together really quickly,’ says Bacon, ‘and they were crucial, and so generous.’

After the 550 guests had wolfed their way through a special Annabel’s-themed dinner menu, it was seconds out as the boxing began in earnest.

‘I’d never boxed before and only began training in January,’ Bacon recalls. ‘Some of our friends hated seeing us fight, but I think everyone could tell we were having fun, and laughing a lot, soon enough. Everyone enjoyed themselves’

Did Hickman win? No, but… ‘Our fight was the closest,’ he reveals, ‘while Michael demolished his opponent and was the star of the show.’ Does a new career beckon? ‘Very possibly! Overall it was more about raising money, of course - just so long as we didn’t get knocked out in the first ten seconds!’

In all, a whopping £250,000 was raised for anti-poaching initiatives by The Charge’s four main supporters - Lewa, Peace Parks Foundation, Conservation Lower Zambezi and the Wilderness Foundation. ‘Next year we want to raise half a million,’ says Bacon. ‘Down the line, it would be great to expand to New York.’

Bring on the rematch!