Hallam managed to drag the Varsity scoreline level at 1.5 points apiece after a night of top quality boxing which ended 4-2 in their favour.
The University of Sheffield headed into the night’s action with high spirits after taking a one point lead in the snowsports events earlier in the year.
A raucous crowd was subjected to a 35 minute delay, whilst they awaited the arrival of the doctor in charge of the weigh-in, but that didn’t dampen the atmosphere, with chants ringing out from either side all night.
The first bout of the night took place between light middleweights Vincent Wong (Hallam) and Jonny Callan (UoS).
Both fighters battled for dominance in the middle of the ring and traded solid blows in a first round that Wong just edged.
Wong came out much stronger in the second and third, scoring knock-downs in each round respectively with some quality jabs. He looked the superior, fitter fighter and gave Hallam the lead with a unanimous decision win.
The second bout, in the same weight category, was between Azharul Khan (Hallam) and Min Neo (UoS).
It was a scrappy start from the two debutants who both looked to get an early foothold. Min marshalled the ring with his longer reach but Khan’s explosive power and solid defence earned a unanimous win for Hallam.
The third bout was a light heavyweight tie between Farrell Masterson (Hallam) and David Agban (UoS) – both only started boxing in October.
The first half of the fight was defined by tentative boxing from both sides, but Agban’s fitness deserted him in the latter half and allowed Masterson to command the ring, the Hallam man winning via unanimous decision to leave UoS with a mountain to climb.
Team Black and Gold instigated their comeback in the fourth bout, when light middleweight Henry Curnow aggressively dominated the first two rounds of a fiery encounter with Sam Smailes to claim a win by unanimous decision.
The fifth bout was perhaps the closest of the night. Hallam’s Ali Foroughi, a coach at Sheffield City Boxing Club, initially made easy work of evading the punches of his opponent, and former Hallam man, Rikki Webster.
Foroughi was penalised for a hit below the belt and the foul cost him. Webster came out spiritedly in the third with a knock-down and dramatically stormed to a split decision win to bring UoS within a point of replicating the 3-3 scoreline from Varsity last year.
The final fight, a middleweight battle which deservedly won the “Bout of the Night” award, went in favour of Hallam’s Mat Smith – also named “Boxer of the Night” – over his opponent Elliot Sharp.
It was an epic struggle from the off with both men fighting at a frantic tempo. They see-sawed for dominance throughout but Smith showed more quality in the end; converting more punches and conserving energy more effectively.
Hallam were the rightful winners on the night and if the rest of Varsity is half as good as the boxing then we have a lot to look forward to.
This is a departure from previous years when Varsity Boxing has traditionally resulted in points on the board for the University of Sheffield.
The 2016 event was shared at 0.5 points a piece as the two Universities played out an entertaining 3-3 tie.
That night Uni came from 2-0 down to salvage a draw on the night, but a similar comeback was always going to be a long-shot here.
It could set up Varsity 2017 as the tightest contest in recent years.
You can watch Forge TV’s full Varsity Boxing replay below.
Photos from Gunnar Mallon and Rachel Ren