Mention that you like watching boxing to the uninitiated and they instantly look at you as if you have just professed an interest in sadomasochism. ‘The intention in boxing is to hurt people’ they clamour. True, but then there is so much more to it than that.
In order to win boxers most crucially have to maintain their composure, which is easier said than done when fourteen stone of muscle is trying to hit you. Ultimately maintaining this level of calm involves being able to out think your opponent before and during the match. People often wonder why boxers like David Haye go on about being faster in the ring than Paris Hilton is at taking her clothes off. The reason that they do this is to show they have the confidence necessary to keep calm during a bout.
During the match, a successful boxer will use this confidence to out think their opponent: the difference between a good boxer and a bad one lies in the former’s ability to anticipate their opponent’s next move and react accordingly. This level of strategy is simply not appreciated by those who think boxing is about having a good right hook.
It is this lack of understanding of the sport that makes the annual Town v. Gown contest so special. It allows students who have never seen a boxing match before to see how unique an experience it is. This year, the Union debating chamber provided the perfect venue for the event. Oxford lost the last one 7-4, and the Dark Blues were hungry for revenge.
Given the fact he had to contend with the high level of anticipation and noise from the full to capacity crowd Oxford’s first boxer, Harley Mace, looked decidedly unfazed as he entered the ring. The student quickly asserted his authority with a particularly stunning right-left combination in the second round leaving the crowd gasping for its breath in the same way Rik Waller must do when climbing stairs. He was awarded the match on a majority decision, though it should have been unanimous.
David Lee looked similarly ready for combat as he entered the ring to a booming soundtrack. While he could not match Mace for fireworks, the featherweight looked to have won his match, which made it all the more surprising when he lost on a split decision.
Next up, there was the first of two gown v. gown bouts. Mark Jones gave the most complete performance of the four competing in these Oxford vs. Oxford fights, and he looks to be a good bet to feature in the Varsity match against Cambridge in March.
Oliver Harriman had the crowd on its feet in the fourth fight with a performance that earned him the boxer of the night. He knocked his opponent down in the first round and never looked back. Cambridge beware.
The first half ended in rather drab fashion. Both James Meredith and Ruben Zweiban lost scrappy fights against town fighters, though in the latter’s case he did seem to be fighting an opponent more suited for the basketball court than the ring. ‘Zweiban’s violent’ the crowd chanted. That might be so, but against the 6’6’’ Goodridge there was not much he could do. The half ended 3-2 to town.
After the break, Andrei Akhvlediani quickly put Oxford on level pegging with a strong showing. The former kick boxing Varsity participant looks to be a real asset for the Dark Blues, and he deservedly won by a unanimous decision.
If anything reinforces the previous spiel about confidence, it was Steffen Hoyemsvoll’s entrance to James Brown’s Sex Machine. He looked like he already had won his match as he danced about in the ring. He started brilliantly and comprehensively outboxed his opponent for two rounds. In the third, he looked tired to such an extent that his shuffle looked more Bruce Forsyth than Muhammed Ali, but he still won the fight with points to spare.
Ben Morris, an ex-Paratrooper, then had the chance to finish the match off in the tenth fight. Though his display was not the most technical of the evening, he used his superior fitness to edge a close fight by a unanimous decision. Oxford had won the match and the home fans celebrated, the mood barely dampened by Alec Ward’s loss in the final fight of the evening. The final score was 5-4 to the Gowns.
Josh Fields, Oxford’s injured captain, said he was ‘delighted with the performance’. So he should be. His team looks strong and ready to end the two year duck in the Varsity match.