Oxford overcame a raucous home crowd and a spirited Cambridge team to win the 106th Varsity Boxing match 6-3 and retain the Truelove bowl at the Cambridge Corn Exchange last Saturday. With the running score of 51-50 in favour of Cambridge heading into this historic boxing match, it proved to be a grudge match from start to finish.
After the two supporting bouts, won by Cambridge's Daphne Tsalli and Jamie O'Neill, the atmosphere reached fever pitch when Nick Melgaard started the first bout of the evening in the featherweight category. The fever pitch was such that the host of the match requested the home crowd to refrain from jeering at the Oxford boxers.
Oxford's Michael Davis had the better start against Melgaard, aiming a flurry of jabs at the startled Light Blue and connecting on a few of them. As the bout wore on, Melgaard tried to fight back with some desperate hooks but Davis was unrelenting. It was no surprise that the judges awarded a unanimous decision to Davis. The home crowd was silenced. Matters did not improve for Cambridge in the second bout between fresher Stefan Lavelle and Oxford's James Watson. Watson's experience was evident when his punches prompted the referee to stop the contest and left the Light Blues trailing 0-2.
Knowing that Cambridge could not afford to trail 0-3, Xiaofeng Li entered the ring on a mission against Oxford captain Tom Eliasz. Both boxers displayed breathtaking speed and raw power that had the crowd on their feet on numerous occasions. The cagey affair then swung in Cambridge's favour when Li increased his pace in the third round that left Eliasz visibly stunned. The venue erupted when Li was awarded a majority decision by the judges to score the first victory for the home team.
Light Blue Sebastian Pender was up next against Conor Husbands. The bout was evenly matched until the second round when the referee momentarily stopped the fight and had the medical team check Pender. Cambridge's worst fears were met when Husbands' relentless jabs forced the referee to award the bout to the Dark Blue. Heading into the interval, Cambridge were 1-3 down.
The urgency from trailing the match was not lost on Cambridge's Will Nyerere-Plastow when the fight resumed. Although his opponent Dan Bailey took the initiative, the Light Blue soaked up the pressure and fought back with clean punches that drew loud cheers. By the end of the fight, Nyerere-Plastow was on the ascendancy and the judges duly obliged with a unanimous decision.
Chants of Light Blues captain Borna Guevel's name were deafening by the time he stepped into the ring against Zachariah Sammour. However, the unfazed Sammour fought strongly and even had Guevel on the ground momentarily. The Cambridge captain tried to fight back but he was barely hanging on. The judges unsurprisingly awarded Sammour a deserved unanimous decision.
With Oxford needing only one more victory with the score at 4-2, Cambridge's William Wakeford reenergized a subdued crowd with an aggressive start. It proved too much for Oxford's Iain Holland when he even tried to wrestle Wakeford to the ground, which drew whistles from the crowd. In the end, the Light Blue was awarded a majority decision to raise hopes of a comeback.
Light Blue Tinashe Murozoki was tasked with keeping the Varsity match alive and he immediately took the fight to Oxford's Harry Miller. Ducking low frequently in brilliant defence, Murozoki connected a few punches on offence as well. However, Miller's aggression ultimately impressed the judges and the Dark Blue was awarded a majority decision. Murozoki was left shattered as the Oxford camp erupted with joy as they have built an insurmountable lead to win the 106th Varsity match.
As the disappointed home crowd started to file out, Oxford's Laurent Kotch wrapped up the match when his heavy jabs left CUABC's Dan Fountain unable to continue. The disappointing evening for the Light Blues was summed up when captain Guevel had to present the Truelove bowl to the jubilant Dark Blues.
With this impressive away victory, Oxford tied the running score of this historic boxing match at 51-51. It was a tough loss for the Light Blues but they can hold their heads high with their admirable performance.