IT Heavy Hitters back with star UFC fighters coaching

Mike King.

IT Heavy Hitters 2021 corporate boxing events, supporting suicide prevention, have taken on a greater significance with the devastating loss of a crew member to suicide last month.

Auckland’s May 8 event will be dedicated to Eric Miller, who tragically passed away in March, while the Wellington show is dedicated to the charity event founder, Mike Dawes’ former boxing coach and friend Doug McLay, who passed away in 2013.

Despite reeling from the recent loss, Mr. Dawes is determined to continue to pave the way for better mental health services and awareness by supporting New Zealand’s leading mental health advocate, Mike King’s Key to Life Charitable Trust.

“We are devastated by Eric’s passing but we must keep going. We started out to help people change their lives and provide a platform for those who are experiencing difficult times. Now, having suffered another loss so personally, we are even more determined. We know how important our work is and we’re here to stay.

“We’ve raised nearly half a million dollars since 2014, including $122,000 for Key to Life in 2019 alone. 100 per cent of the proceeds go to support Key to Life’s life-saving work in mental health advocacy and suicide prevention.”

The driving force behind the Key to Life Trust, 2019 New Zealander of the year and mental health educator, Mike King can’t understate the importance of the support from charitable events like IT Heavy Hitters.

“The funds raised allow us to go around schools and marae in communities throughout New Zealand, normalising problems and making it ok for young people to ask for help.

“The loss of a crew member to suicide just weeks ago just goes to show the magnitude of what we do. No one is immune to this kind of tragedy, and we're more driven and galvanised than ever before to continue to provide the support that is so sorely needed in the community,” says Mr. King.

Mike Angove and the ITHH team.

The IT Heavy Hitters Programme will see 180 corporate professionals mostly from the IT industry taking part in a 14-week intensive boxing training camp with 72 eventually paired off to compete in one of the two fight nights.

Dawes believes the challenge of a 14-week fight camp is an ideal metaphor for the ups and downs people face in life.

“We want people to step out of their comfort zone grow during camp and ignite the link between physical and mental well-being. Getting people out of board rooms and into the ring helps with their physical, mental, and emotional resilience.

“These brave participants are fighting in the ring, and we’re fighting for every New Zealander that’s struggling with their mental health. From the darkness to the light, we are fighting suicide every day. We don’t have a magic fix, but it’s a start,” he says.

Brad Riddell and Dan Hooker.

Auckland competitors will be trained and mentored by world class professional coaches including Kiwi UFC stars Dan Hooker and Shane Young, who has previously used his UFC platform to advocate for mental health.

“This is my second year coaching IT Heavy Hitters, and for me being a trainer in an event like this is a real opportunity to give back to my community doing the thing I love.

“If what we are doing here can help lift someone out of a bad patch or provide the tools to enable even one person to reach out for help then that’s huge,” says the UFC veteran Dan Hooker.

The Wellington group will be trained by Wellington Boxing Gym and Robbie Martin of Martin Degnan Boxing, with the support of Mark Hampton of the Muay Thai Institute and former trainer of world women’s Boxing champion Gentiane Lupi, who’s been with the event since its inception.


Wellington event: 1 May 2021

Auckland event: 8 May 2021

Keen to help?

IT Heavy Hitters is calling on businesses for donations of goods they can auction at the shows in half time, with 100 per cent of the proceeds going to The Key to Life Charitable Trust. If your business is interested in donation products for auction please contact

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