CUABC boxers put up a brave, and mostly victorious, effort at the Guildhall on Saturday nightSarah Naddell

To many, boxing is the sport of the uncivilised brute. The almost unadulterated violence is too much for those of a more sensitive disposition. The card of twenty fights under the lights at the Guildhall was a spectacle to behold, however, assuaging the concerns of those who feel the sport is from a bygone era. The show was an exhibition of boxing excellence, a testament to the high standards which govern the sport of boxing and those who practice it.

Twenty fights constitute a monumental card, even for the now-annual Town v Gown show hosted by Cambridge University Amateur Boxing Club, something CUABC President Ciaran Hill acknowledged as he thanked referees and judges after the final bell rang. The tone for an energetic evening was set by the first boxers to the ring, and chiefly by CUABC's Matt Elliot. The furious pace of the evening’s curtain-raiser did not abate across the three rounds, Elliot earning a unanimous decision victory after maintaining sufficient spring in his step to put his opponent under pressure, drawing blood from his nose.

Lean and youthful Raf Bertoli of CUABC took to the ring second, staying busy enough throughout his bout to earn a second unanimous decision victory of the night. Maddy Hyde was the first woman to step onto the canvas for the hosts following Bertoli, swiftly putting any concern of a first loss for CUABC to bed. Not content to sit behind a jab, Hyde made her opponent look all kinds of uncomfortable in the first round, and continued to assert her dominance in the second before the referee brought the contest to an early conclusion, such was the supremacy of Hyde. 

Lawrence Tan would be the first home boxer to fall to defeat at the Guildhall. Tan turned down his opponent's invitation to touch gloves,  and would ultimately prove no match for his opponent's penetrative uppercuts. Though the fight began in a measured manner, Tan could not wrestle control of proceedings from his opponent who controlled affairs from the centre of the ring. Tan's defence could provide no answers to the questions asked repeatedly of it, and the CUABC conceded on behalf of his fighter early in the third.

Darius Zarrabian was not content to start his bout measuredly, instead opting to send as many punches as possible at his opponent whose guard failed him as the fight grew older. Zarrabian’s opponent relied increasingly on his ability to take Zarrabian’s straight jabs and on wild right hands, to little avail as the judges unanimously awarded the fight to the CUABC man. Elliot Tebboth would endure no three-round slug-fest, however; a series of body shots in the first proved too much to for his opponent wearing shorts bedecked by crosses of St George. An  apparent injury to the lower left abdominal area of Tebboth's opposite number brought the bout to an early conclusion.

Alistair Greenwood would be the first boxer of the night to hit the canvas, sent tumbling in the second round of his bout. Greenwood would, however, recover to win himself a unanimous decision, a stellar left hand to the chin of his man drawing the loudest cheer of the night so far, and doing much to turn the tide following the knockdown. Hannah Streat continued the ascendancy of the hosts in her bout, comfortably bettering her opponent over three rounds.

Controversy abounded in Josh Wilcox’s bout. Wilcox walked into his opponent’s opening straight shot that sent him to the canvas in a round that saw blood pouring from Wilcox’s nose before the bell. Though it appeared Wilcox was consoled by his corner at the break, he bore a look of dogged determination throughout the rest of the fight, wearing a late hit from his opponent after the referee called for the fighters to break that drew boos from the partisan crowd in the Guildhall. Wilcox was stoic, throwing power punches as best he could before the referee stopped the contest in the name of Wilcox’s safety.

The final bout before the interval saw Emma Baghurst dispatch her opponent with ease. A superb combination of head and body shots from the Cambridge woman sent her opponent to the canvas twice in the first, the second being the fight’s last action.

Judah Aiyenuro opened the second half of the show a picture of focus against a taller opponent who opted against traditional boxing footwear. Cries of “Judah” from the crowd punctuated a cager and tactical first round, though Aiyenuro caught his opponent with a fearsome right to close out the opening frame. A unanimous decision was awarded after the conclusion of two further dominant rounds for the Cambridge man who hardly seemed to break a sweat. Much like Wilcox, James Kuo was welcomed warmly to the ring by his opponent, taking a nasty right to the chin to open proceedings. Throughout the bout, Kuo stood strong against a barrage of gasp-inducing uppercuts but struggled to find a way through the guard of his elder opponent, succumbing to a unanimous points decision.

In 13 of the 16 fights that pitted a Cambridge boxer against a boxer from a rival club, the boxer with home-field advantage emerged triumphantSarah Naddell

Jovan Tasev gave perhaps the most scintillating performance of the night. So eager to get underway was Tasev he was twice told by the referee to retreat to his corner before the first round could begin in earnest. Tasev’s opponent had no answers for the questions the Cambridge man asked of him with his repeated right hands, teetering within the first minute. The fight was called to an abrupt end by the referee within sixty seconds. Alex Stoilov also claimed for himself a victory. Both boxers tested the limits of the ring, Stoilov’s opponent on multiple occasions losing his footing as he ventured to far toward the fringes of the canvas. Stoilov’s opposite number was not a boxer of grace, instead opting to hurl Stoilov around the ring, though even this brought little fortune as Stoilov outclassed his man. 

Owing to an unfortunate number of withdrawals, a handful of inter-college bouts populated the latter stages of the card. However, quality was not diminished by the lack of outside opponents for CUABC boxers. Claudia Tam and Roshni Gohil contested a frantic three rounds, with Gohil emerging victorious, despite being knocked down in the first by her tenacious opponent.

The penultimate fight pitting CUABC against a rival club saw Harry Holdstock hold his nerve in a ferocious three round battle. The 2017 Varsity welterweight champion attacked his opponent from the outset with vigour that brought a raucous crowd to its feet. The visiting boxer was almost toppling over in pursuit of the crowd favourite as Holdstock pushed for a knockdown in the third, and though his man did not hit the canvas, the Cambridge man secured a split decision victory.

Aiden Cope was the last boxer from the CUABC camp to face a visitor. A tactical, defensive fight ensued once both entered the ring, with few shots from either boxer landing through well-maintained guards. The cleanest contest of the night was won by split decision by Cope; a strong defensive showing surely bodes well for Cope who seldom landed but when he did break through, as in the second with a strong right hand that caught his opponent’s cheek, showed class on the offensive.

The final three fights of the card pitted Cambridge against Cambridge, the first contest being a clash between Ciaran Hill and James Lee. The stockier Lee, sporting cosmetic damage to the cheek from Hill, troubled the President with powerful body shots. Both men were left bloodied and glistening by the end of the contest, which upstart Lee claimed by a unanimous points decision. Though the Guildhall threatened to become a cavernous void as the Cambridgeshire night wore on, the back and forth contest between Tim Benger and Dominic Hall ensured this was not to be the case. Hall’s nose suffered considerably, Benger continually targeting his opponent’s weak point. For much of the fight, Hall held his left hand high and close to protect the bloodied mess of his nose, while not holding back in a truly brutal contest for which both boxers should be commended. Though Hall was adjudged to have won by unanimous decision, the tenacity and spirit of both boxers was a marvel to behold.

Stephen Chan and Cheuk Lan closed out the night, fighting tooth and nail across the canvas. Fatigue would ultimately be Lan’s undoing; lethargically offering little resistance to the onslaught from Chan, Lan would fall to defeat by split decision.

Commenting on the evening, CUABC President Ciaran Hill reflected positively on the show: "I thought it was a fantastic night. We had twenty fights tonight, great performances from all the boxers; the men and the women had some very entertaining fights."

With Varsity in the coming weeks, Hill was optimistic about his team’s chances following the night that saw CUABC emerge with a record of 13 wins and 3 losses from the 16 fights against boxers from visiting clubs: "I’ve been with the team for just a little bit over three years now and this is definitely one of the strongest, if not the strongest, team that I’ve seen since I’ve been here."

Boxing is an acquired taste. Town v Gown was a showcase of amateur boxing at its best, however. Contests were hard-fought as boxers aimed to cement their places on the card at the Varsity Match. Offensive displays of considerable calibre were the order of the night, and though ferocity was on tap, boxers conducted themselves with grace and class on a stellar night for CUABC

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