Celebration among the Cambridge boxersIzzy Poles with permission for Varsity

It was an electric night of boxing at the Guildhall on Friday, 8 March. Pugilists from both Cambridge and Oxford donned their gloves to compete in the 115th edition of the world’s longest running inter-club boxing fixture, which ended in a convincing victory for the hosts.

The evening began with two exhibition bouts. First up was a rematch which saw Tim Benger take on Holland Shore ABC’s Joe Mascot. Benger relied on his celebrated stamina to dictate the pace of the match, but unfortunately his evasive skills were not enough for the judges, who scored the bout unanimously in his opponent’s favour.

The next exhibition bout got off to an explosive start, with Edward Xu landing a flurry of punches against Eastgate BC’s Jacob Cherery. Xu’s opponent looked to be in trouble on the ropes; but such intensity took its toll on the Cambridge boxer in the following round, and a comeback from his opponent led the referee to stop the match.

The first Varsity match of the night was also the only women’s bout, with Esther Labarraque facing off against Oxford’s Lara Mallin. The two fighters were very closely matched and went the distance, Labarraque’s jab proving particularly successful against her smaller opponent. However, this was not enough to start Cambridge off with a win, with the judges awarding a split decision in favour of the Oxford boxer: although the women’s bouts do not count towards the overall tally, the loss still caused consternation in the Cambridge end.

In the first men’s bout of the night, Yaw Ansong Snr faced off against Oxford’s Ati Maheshwari. Sporting his trademark pair of Vans, Ansong Snr danced around the ring, throwing some explosive right hands – but his opposite number showed the composure to see out the match – ending in a split decision in favour of Oxford.

The momentum was now definitively against Cambridge as Davod Shah stepped up for the second men’s bout. After a first round where he was largely in control, Shah was rocked by a huge right hand in the second; the Guildhall’s home crowd could only breathe a sigh of relief as the bell rang to signal the end of the round. The atmosphere was tense: would Shah be able to claw it back, or would Oxford’s Felix Rolt keep up the pace and make it three in a row for the Dark Blues? Shah assuaged any fears in the final round, unsettling his opponent with a series of solid straight shots and securing a victory by unanimous decision, much to the delight of the CUABC faithful.

Next up was CUABC captain Alby Biju. His opponent Patrick Ruce came out strong, clearly determined to avenge his teammate’s loss: Biju received two standing counts inside the first minute. Knowing that another standing count would lead to a TKO victory for the Oxford man, Biju nonetheless kept his composure, with a pair of well-timed overhand right punches knocking his opponent down twice in quick succession. Biju’s speed and intensity then proved too much for his opponent, and an action-packed contest ended with a TKO victory for the Cambridge captain.

Following this, there were two uncontested bouts, with England Boxing unwilling to sanction match-ups for Oxford’s Roberto Lacourt or Cambridge’s Toro Croft-Senior on account of skill difference.

Alan Mathew then stepped into the ring for the men’s 71kg match-up. Mathew seemed untouchable, slipping punches at will and taking no damage when closing the distance himself. Cambridge’s momentum was now unstoppable: Mathew’s victory by unanimous decision over his rival was followed by yet another dominant showing by Cambridge’s Joel Camara, who never seemed in danger as he gained a comprehensive points victory over Oxford’s Patrick Ashmore.

An overall Cambridge victory seemed within touching distance as Franz Pechmann faced off against Oxford’s Henry Gasztowtt. Pechmann was in control throughout, showing excellent head movement to enter the range of his taller opponent, and it was no surprise when the judges returned a unanimous decision in his favour.


Mountain View

Cambridge success at cross country championships

The final match-up saw the two heavyweights Tom Evans and Henry Field go toe to toe. Despite being a last-minute call-up who had only trained with CUABC for four weeks, Evans showed no signs of inexperience and sealed Cambridge’s victory with a dominant display.

Captain Alby Biju could hardly hide his excitement, saying: “I am so proud of this team. To see their hard work pay off in such a satisfying fashion is incredible!” His sentiments were echoed by head trainer Lee Miller, who stated that he and the other coaches “were incredibly proud of all our boxers, winning against a tough Oxford team,” especially given the squad contained only one returning Blue.

The 115th Varsity match was, however, a bittersweet occasion for coach Lee. Despite guiding CUABC to its fifth title on the trot, this will be his last year with the club, which he joined in 2009. Reflecting on his time at the helm, he was quick to express his gratitude to “all the boxers and committee members that have made the last 15 years such a special time for me”, as well as the other coaches and club doctors who made the victory possible.