Oxford triumphant in ‎Varsity Boxing

21 March 2011

The annual Varsity boxing match between Cambridge and Oxford had all the right ingredients for the occasion – the wonderful, history-laden backdrop of the East End of London, and the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas as music blared and lights shone. Neither amateur boxing outfit disappointed, but it was Oxford who were ultimately able to bask in a victory at the end of the night.

Both sides contributed to a thoroughly entertaining evening and underlined the match’s status as one of the must-see events in the university sporting calendar. The credit for this must go to the participating boxers and coaches, as both captains acknowledged in their pre-match programme notes. A competitive match was ensured.

For Cambridge, this was a chance to complete a hat-trick of victories over the Other Place. Oxford, on the other hand, were looking to avenge the narrowest of defeats from last year. For most of this match, it looked as though it would be an exact repeat as Cambridge dominated, before Oxford came back to reclaim the crown with one bout to spare.

At the start of the night, Cambridge quickly sailed into a 2-0 lead. They seemed to take to the impressive theatre of sport with greater ease, and proved able to use the wonderful atmosphere to their advantage.

Lacy, in the featherweight contest, provided the necessary dynamism to set off a night of fireworks at the Troxy. He may have been fighting in the lightest category, but certainly did not lack power, and was able to send his opponent Lee to the floor on two separate occasions. On the second of these, chants of ‘Cambridge’ were already echoing round the auditorium. The referee soon stopped the contest in response to Lacy’s stellar performance, which was rightly rewarded at the end of the night.

Cambridge’s bright start continued in the lightweight division, as Sukuman used good combinations to win on a points decision. Able to do the preparatory work with his left hand, he then struck with his right.

However, the tide of the match abruptly turned as the ebb and flow of this contest made for pulsating viewing throughout. It was a left hook that turned the contest, as Harriman sent Chambers crashing to the floor like a fallen tree. The immediate concern was for his health, with doctors quickly on the scene, but after Chambers had left the ring, Harriman could celebrate putting Oxford’s first point on the board.

The brutal knockout swung the pendulum towards Oxford, and they built momentum in the next welterweight bout as Fields produced a master class to win on a unanimous points decision. He demonstrated an ability to pull his opponent in which allowed him to score with fast combinations and heavy punches. A true captain’s performance had levelled the contest.

Simpson entered the ring for his light-middle weight bout and the Dark Blues’ Ormerod-Cloke started the stronger, showing his power to get Simpson on the ropes. Simpson did have his moments, putting his opponent onto the floor, but it was Ormerod-Cloke’s sustained power which won the contest, as Simpson faded in round three. Oxford headed into the interval with a narrow 3-2 advantage.

The interval gave Cambridge the chance to regroup as they looked to keep the contest competitive. Webb did exactly this in the first middleweight bout as he won on a close points decision. He an impressive competitive edge to stay in the fight; His opponent certainly had a good right but Webb kept going to level the scores and further increase the tension as the match reached its business end.

The tension was clearly felt by Cambridge captain Kiwanuka as he looked to dominate early on in his middleweight bout. The flurry of punches he threw was in stark contrast to Hoyemsvoll’s tight defence. In truth, the Oxford boxer was more composed throughout and grew into the contest, able to use his height to land the more significant punches. Kinwanuka’s worked hard, and his disappointment at ultimately losing on a majority points decision was tangible as he was unable to replicate his opposing captain’s victory.

This left Kelly with a must win match in the light-heavyweight bout. Unfortunately, it was Oxford’s turn to show their class as Morris completely out-boxed his opponent to seal Varsity victory. It was completed in style as Morris left the referee with no option but to count Kelly out. It was a sad way to relinquish the title but credit must go to Oxford.

As if to underline this, in the final heavyweight bout, Akhvledani produced a performance to crown Oxford’s victory. With Oxford supporters now in full voice, Akhvledani floored his opponent who was counted out, much to their delight.

Fields’s delight was evident when speaking to The Cambridge Student: “The euphoria of winning this transcends anything else I have ever felt in my life. We were stronger, fitter, and just better than Cambridge, but they put up a good fight and I commend all their boxers and coaches.” He singled out Ormerod-Cloke as a star performer.

Meanwhile, Kinwanuka was gracious in defeat as he told TCS “I am proud to have been on the team with eight other athletes. I gave my heart out in the ring for Cambridge, thought I had won, but at the end of it all, you always have to accept the judges’ decision. That is amateur boxing. No excuses.”

Amateur boxing certainly was the real winner on a glorious night.

Michael Alhadeff

Photo Credit: David Hardeman