Image credit: OUABC

116th Boxing Varsity: A valiant fight

The 116th Boxing Varsity, the latest installment of the longest-running inter-club amateur boxing fixture in the world, did not fail to disappoint, as an electrifying night determined which club took home the prized Truelove Bowl. 

On a four-year winning streak, Cambridge looked to retain the trophy, whilst an invigorated Oxford  team aimed to bring the trophy back into the hands of the country’s oldest student-run boxing club.

The Women’s Varsity kicked off the night as OUABC boxer Lara Mallin took on CUABC’s Esther  Labarraque. Labarraque sought to utilise her jab, whilst an aggressive Mallin came out throwing ‘everything but the kitchen sink’. Throughout the bout, punches from both sides flew with intensity,  though it was Mallin’s diverse combinations that separated her from her Light Blue rival, ultimately  winning by split decision. 

Although not counting to the overall score, the result marked victory in the Women’s Varsity, putting Oxford off to a solid start.

Up for the first Men’s Varsity event was Ati Maheshwari vs Yaw Ansong Snr at featherweight. Making his amateur debut, Maheshwari displayed incredible composure, using his long sharp jab to keep the Cambridge boxer at a distance. Ansong Snr fought hard in an effort to rally back but Maheshwari proved to be his superior, earning a well-deserved split decision victory.

Next was the lightweight bout, where Felix Rolt faced off against Cambridge’s David Shah. In a war of  attrition, both boxers looked to wear their opponent down with blistering and unrelenting punches. The second round saw huge right hands land on the chin of the Light Blue, who somehow kept standing and made it to the end of the round. The other rounds were close and going to the judges’ scorecards both sides felt they had done enough to earn a victory. In a tense and hard-fought bout, Shah was awarded a unanimous decision victory.

Paddy Ryce next faced CUABC Captain Alby Biju in the light welterweight contest. Ryce came out utilising his strength and power to knock Biju down in the first round. Beating the count, the Light Blue conceded another count from a strong right hand. The referee kept the fight going as the Light Blue almost suffered the same fate in his previous varsity match where he was stopped after conceding two standing counts in the first. The more experienced Biju battled back strong, showing great heart to give Ryce two standing counts in the second round leading to a ref’s stoppage.

Following this, the welterweight bout went uncontested with England Boxing refusing to sanction the bout due to an experience disparity. The bout was awarded in Oxford’s favour to Roberto Lacourt. 

The next bout was the light-middleweight contest between David Seiferth and Alan Mathew. A closely contested fight where not much separated the two in a traditional boxer-brawler matchup. Seiferth offered unrelenting pressure as Mathew looked to utilise his slick boxing skills from the outside. After three hard-fought rounds the decision went to Matthew unanimously, although the decision was not without controversy, drawing surprise from plenty of audience members. 

The 7-2 Cambridge victory did not necessarily reflect the competitiveness of the overall night

Next up were the middleweights. Like the welterweight contest (or no-contest), the first middleweight bout was deemed a Cambridge victory due to an experience disparity. In the second and only contested middleweight bout of the night, Patrick Ashmore faced Cambridge’s Joel Camara. Utilising feints and footwork, both boxers displayed impressive composure in perhaps the most measured bout of the night; it was the Cambridge boxer who was to prove himself to be the more  measured pugilist in an overall tentative bout that sealed another Light Blue victory.  

By this point, Cambridge was ahead 5-2, an Oxford victory now being out of reach. Despite this, the  next four boxers would show no less heart, determination or courage than any preceding.  

Henry Gasztowtt faced Cambridge’s Franz Pechmann in the light-heavyweight contest. Gasztowtt  showed incredible grit in only his second amateur bout against the Cambridge nine-bout veteran. In  a contest that ebbed and flowed, it was ultimately the experience of Pechmann that proved the difference as he gained a unanimous decision victory.  

In the final heavyweight contest, Oxford’s Henry Field faced Cambridge’s Tom Evans. A solid first round by Field was followed by two good rounds by the Light Blue who showed his composure to  earn the judge’s decision to seal off the night.  

The 7-2 Cambridge victory did not necessarily reflect the competitiveness of the overall night; yet, it proved that Varsity Boxing remains an enthralling event fought within the so-called “squared circle”

Image description: The Oxford and Cambridge boxers in action during the 116th Varsity Match