On Wednesday night, the Oxford Union Debating Chamber played host to one of the most thrilling sporting encounters of the term: the annual Town vs. Gown boxing event. In a setting more accustomed to the genteel world of guest speakers and debates, the prospect of 13 fully-fledged amateur bouts, pitting the best of the OUABC “Gown” against the best the “Town” could offer, was certainly mouth-watering to the local fight fan.
The “Town” opposition came from all across the UK, from Southampton, Kent and Plymouth, to Birmingham and Durham. The sound of the first bell ringing more than an hour late didn’t seem to matter to the buzzing crowd looking on. After the introductions and the blaring drum&bass emanated from the speakers, the first fight commenced. And what a fight. Oxford’s very own Alexandra Littaye came out strong to the roar of the home crowd, jabbing resoundingly before utilising the straight right to her advantage. The defining moment came in the second round when she landed a ferocious right hook ending the match in a TKO victory for Oxford. It was the perfect start for the home team, and a dramatic contest that would set the tone for the night.
The next three fights would bring heartbreak. OUABC’s Mikey Davis, David Wray and Nick Ng all put in admirable performances, breaking through the defences of their opposition, only to fall short of clinching the decision. But from the crispness of Davis’ shots to the flurry in the last seconds of Ng’s first ever bout, it is safe to say that the future of our boxing is looking bright.
Moreover, the next fight saw one of the best performances of the night coming from Harley Mace. Although the contest was characterised by a series of messy grabs and scraps, Mace performed throughout in a composed manner with probably the tightest defence of all the fighters tonight. He left the ring with a unanimous decision victory and his opponent with a bloody nose.
The next three fights saw more harrowing defeats for Oxford, despite Corpus’ James Watson putting in a solid performance of clean hitting. The crowd perked up at the sight of Oxford’s captain Ollie Harriman entering the ring, and although he started cagily (and by his own admission less fluently) by the second round he was looking in good touch as a superb right hook knocked his opponent down. His victory by unanimous decision was received warmly by the satisfied crowd.
Boxing is a truly gripping sport, but its beauty is derived from two paradoxical elements. Fans are dazzled by what is known as the “sweet science”: genuine boxing skill coupled with solid technique and flair. Yet more carnally, we are drawn to the brutality, drama and impact of that same contest. The penultimate fight offered both elements. Oxford’s Tommy Williams remained resolute in defence in the first round, but in the last two, the crowd was treated to an absolute rumble between two determined fighters: hooks, jabs and straight shots were all fired, leaving both contestants bloodied by the end. This excitement carried itself into the final fight, with Max Lack’s aggressive style sustaining the intensity of the contest until its end.
By the time the night was over, the scorecard read 8-5 in favour of the Town contenders, but let us not take anything away from our OUABC fighters who performed with conviction and showed real heart throughout. This was aptly reflected in the words of Oxford Captain Ollie Harriman on his fighters: “It’s all very positive. I am so proud of them, especially since some of them started boxing just before Christmas. They have trained so hard and I am over the moon.” All in all it was an entertaining night, and with the Varsity match on the horizon, Oxford has much to look forward to in the ring.