Esquire Mines Web for Urban Boxing Series

White Collar Brawler jumps from online to TV

Esquire is hoping everybody is talking about this fight club.

Today, the fledgling network, an offshoot of the venerable men's magazine, is set to launch White Collar Brawler, a show that was born as a Web series in 2010.

The show features real cubicle worker types in various U.S. cities donning gloves and throwing punches at each other, Manny Pacquiao-style. White Collar Brawler's first participants were its creators, Nate Houghteling and Kai Hasson, themselves co-founders of the branded entertainment studio Portal A.

"I was in San Francisco, and I stumbled into this white collar boxing club," said Hasson. "It was a transformative thing."

Hasson was set to give real boxing a try: "A show materialized before my eyes."

The show, featuring real guys training, practicing and ultimately hitting their co-workers, debuted on website in the fall of 2010. The show eventually made its way to Blip and YouTube. Twenty-plus episodes later, the first season generated 2.5 million video views and 110,000 unique monthly visitors, per Portal A. Hasson said he knew they were onto something when the show's tapings started to draw serious live crowds. "The local audience grew [in] leaps and bounds," he said. 

Still, the duo spent several years trying to land White Collar Brawler on TV. In the meantime, the show gained in popularity (as did white collar boxing, says Hasson). Over time, Portal A nabbed sponsors like Tres Agaves, Thriv, Bonobos, Vibram and Gu Energy Gel.

"A lot of networks looked at it," said Houghteling. "There were a lot of complications with things like insurance."

Now, the timing seems right with the launch of the urban-male-targeted Esquire cable net. Houghteling thinks the pair has tapped into something larger in the male culture that goes beyond underground clubs. "We get a lot of interest from men … there is something about sitting in front of a computer with no human contact that isn't good for you. You need human contact. It's kind of like sex."