Team Hallam have drawn level in Varsity proceedings after winning a remarkably tight boxing event 5-4.
With the University of Sheffield 4-2 down at one stage, it was a remarkable comeback to take the night down to the last bout after winning two on the bounce, but Saul Holland was victorious after winning on a unanimous decision.
The win for Hallam takes the overall Varsity score to 3-3 after Team Hallam’s win in the Ice Hockey 1s the night before, although they were made to work for it after an outstanding comeback from the Black and Golds.
Both unis have enjoyed success this season with four gold medals and three silvers between them at the University Boxing Finals.
And the night got off to a stirring start between Jade Pearce and Natasha Taylor in the showpiece event, which doesn’t go towards the Varsity point that was on offer.
Taylor, from Hull University, is a BUCS gold medallist and gave Uni of Sheffield boxer Pearce a run for her money, landing some heavy shots in a fast-paced first round. The second round brought about much the same, with a couple of clever uppercuts thrown in by Pearce to rattle Taylor and rouse her home crowd. Quick and accurate hook and jab combos from both boxers set-up a knife-edge finale, and it was Pearce who was crowned the winner after a split decision.
A perfect crowd warmer for the Black and Golds.
Jonny Callan was tasked with the challenge of getting the University of Sheffield off to a perfect start as he faced 21-year-old Conor Quinlan.
Both have previously fought in one bout each, and some quick feet from Callan temporarily trapped Quinlan in the corner, but some powerful shots from the Hallam boxer immediately put Callan on the back-foot with a couple of uppercuts and a damning hook to get the edge in the first round. The second round saw another strong performance from the Hallam man and despite Callan’s best efforts, the Black and Gold boxer couldn’t quite sustain the heavy hits of his counterpart. A combative third round saw Callan hit back with some quick-fire combos but ultimately it was Quinlan who secured the first win of the night by a split decision; a testament to the fight from the Black and Golds.
Alex Fraser from Uni of then took to the ring for the second bout of the night as she faced biomed student Charlotte Pitchford. A lively start from Fraser unsettled the nerves of Hallam and with 11 seconds of the first round remaining the bout was won by the University of Sheffield after the referee stopped play. 1-1 on the scoreboard after that technical knock-out, and a winner of the first ever women’s boxing bout.
Attempting to build on Fraser’s win was Anthony O’Dowd, weighing at 72kg, as he took on Team Hallam’s 69kg Hashim Younis. It was the pair’s first bout, and O’Dowd made an imposing start by knocking his opponent to the floor within the first 20 seconds. The Black and Golds came back fighting though, and a couple of heavy hits were landed by O’Dowd as he held his own after a rocky start. A more even second round followed but Younis was given a standing count after O’Dowd powerfully fought his way back into the bout. It set-up a thrilling final round, and a second standing count to Younis suggested the Uni of were just edging the round. An uppercut and a left-hook left Hallam on the back-foot, and it was Anthony O’Dowd who put the University of Sheffield 2-1 in front after a unanimous decision.
Before the interval, Matthew Talbot took on Hallam’s Fraser Hamilton as the Black and Golds looked to add a two-point cushion. A string of powerful jabs from Hamilton knocked Talbot to the floor with less than a minute remaining of the first bout, signalling a technical knock-out as Hallam levelled the scoring to make it 2-2.
After the re-start, Alireza Foroughi took on the Black and Gold’s Henry Curnow in the first of the final five bouts. The 33-year-old Hallam boxer held his own in the ring for the first round, throwing some clever uppercuts in a tight exchange. Cornering his opponent and working him around the ring, it was Foroughi who eventually upended Curnow in the second round as the University of Sheffield man slumped to the floor, giving Hallam a knockout win to make it 3-2 overall.
Jaffar Saleh was the man tasked with levelling for Uni of, as he faced 29-year-old Aaron Waller. The bout certainly got all corners of the Octagon on their feet as both threw strong jabs and uppercuts in a tight affair early on. For both boxers, the bout was not only a test of their endurance and skill but of their stamina and ability to turn the energy of the crowd in their favour. One can either be a beneficiary of adrenaline or it can hinder. Saleh was cornered and given a standing count in the third round, and it was Hallam who claimed the win by a unanimous decision after the referee commended both boxers.
Joe Norman vs Farrell Masterson was the next match-up with Hallam 4-2 up, and it was Norman who made the most impressive start, working his opponent around the ring with ease while issuing a couple of stinging blows to the stomach. It took until just the second round for the referee to call time on the bout as the University of Sheffield halved the deficit to 4-3 and initiated their comeback.
With two bouts left, the fans of the Black and Golds dared to dream after Norman’s relentless display, and Alex Jorgensen had the chance to quash that and seal a Hallam win as he took on Sam Ribansky.
Jorgsensen appeared to shoulder the responsibility of Hallam as a ferocious fight got the Octagon on their feet once again. Quick-fire combos from the Hallam man gave Ribansky very little breathing space as this soon became a test of sheer power.
Uni of fought back in the best fashion possible as Ribansky won on a split decision to take it to the wire, with the final bout deciding the winner.
The pressure was on, then, for Raj Patel and Hallam’s Saul Holland with the scoring tied at 4-4.
An even contest that was incredibly close to call, with the atmosphere raucous with so much hinging on the two men. Both took damaging blows to the torso in the second-round with the crowd fully behind them. They were never going to leave anything in the dressing room and they had to both dig deep in the final round. Holland dominated with Patel on his last legs to give Hallam the win, although the University of Sheffield will be proud at the comeback they sparked.
Photo credit: Tom Milton