CUABC and OUABC women face off in 2017 VarsityLUCAS CHEBIB/VARSITY

Oxford University Amateur Boxing Club (OUABC) has withdrawn its women’s team from the 2020 Cambridge Oxford Varsity boxing bout over concerns around suitably matching experience levels between fighters and the potential impact of this on the safety of athletes.

In a letter published on the Cambridge University Amateur Boxing Club (CUABC) Facebook page between OUABC President Rachel Dauncey and CUABC president James Lee, Dauncey states that, "after a long series of meetings and discussions within the [...] club, the decision has been made that we will not proceed with Women’s Varsity this year."

Dauncey writes that, "the crux of the issue for us is boxer experience. The line between making the Varsity competitive and making it safe is one that I think, given our conversations, our two clubs draw quite differently."

"I believe this largely due to injuries in the previous Varsity matches that have been held. Of the last six women’s Varsity bouts, four of ours have been stopped; we have had women badly hurt, concussed, and one woman taken to hospital wearing an oxygen mask. For those reasons, I think Oxford are naturally more conservative on these grounds."

"It is also important to note that, as we have expressed before, this is a concern we have with the Men’s Varsity as well, but due to the decades of tradition that is a whole lot harder to change."

Dauncey told Varsity that they, "do also think that the Men’s system isn’t entirely safe, since again there is no experience matching. However, the Men's Varsity has been established long enough that both sides have a pretty good idea of the standard to expect each year, which does mean it is easier to self-regulate."

"The comment on tradition relates to the fact that, whereas the Women’s Varsity is still in its growth stage and therefore all involved are open to changing and reworking the system to get it right, the Men’s system has been established for over 100 years, and attempts to make adjustments will be met with a lot more pushback."


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"This does not mean it should not be done, but each set of committees only has a finite capacity (trying to fit in training 8 times a week plus committee work around a degree means that, sadly, each committee has to choose what their primary goals will be)."

In the post, Lee writes that, "discussions between both clubs began in June' which centred around “set[ting] out deadlines for sharing information, determining weight categories, and imposing forfeits”. This led to CUABC Women, 'training relentlessly with what we believed was a realistic idea of the potential weight categories for the Varsity competition. However, the Oxford committee no longer felt they that they were able to honour our timeline, and have thus been forced to withdraw the competition for this year."

"Although we have been unable to find a workable solution for both clubs this year, our discussions have been invaluable in ensuring that the problems with hosting the Women’s Varsity are resolved in the long term. We have come to better understand the underlying differences between both clubs that were traditionally causing confusion, and managed to open a more honest dialogue."

The Men’s Varsity contest will take place on 7th March in Oxford.

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