Fight Night returned for the second time this academic year last weekend, serving up a host of exciting bouts for those in attendance. With extensive media coverage from NSR, NUTV and The Courier, our writers give their take on what was a superb night of boxing entertainment.
Having never been interested in Boxing, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from Newcastle’s May Fight Night. To be asked to be a pundit came as a great surprise, even though my response made it clear that “I know very little”. However, Fight Night surpassed even my greatest expectations.
I had no idea that Fight Night was such a large operation -- was having an excessively large bouncer standing in every doorway from Luther’s to Venue an hour before broadcasting commenced really necessary? Nonetheless, it became apparent rather quickly that there were many people involved behind the scenes. From fighters, judges, coaches and commentators to camera crew, technicians, promoters and the intoxicated pundits, I knew I’d be in for a cracking night.
16 fights lay ahead of us. That’s the most fights to happen at a Newcastle Fight Night so far. 32 fighters had trained for 12 weeks with an Olympic silver medallist, and I’m not surprised to learn from Fight Night veterans that this was the highest quality of boxing we’ve seen.
Some fights were full-on: punch, jab, uppercut. The commentary epitomised this in fight 10 when they said Jack ‘the ripper’ Jones looked like he wanted to kill ‘Captain’ Morgan Savill. All I’m saying is, I’m glad Morgan was in the ring and not me. By this point, the atmosphere had totally subsumed me and I was really getting into it. When the roaring audience, almost baying for blood like lions, chanted boxers names, it felt like I’d been catapulted into a bizarre Handmaid’s Tale particicution.
Other fights were disappointing. Fight 11 ended after 14 seconds and cued the audience to ramp up their excitement levels. Pints of water (I hope) went flying and showered the boxing ring. Too many fights were rather standoffish with ducks, dodges and wild swings for my liking.
In the pre-match build-up, Rory Ewart, who was anchoring NUSU TV’s live broadcast, asked me what I thought of the lack of head guards. It’s so much harder to put together a coherent response when you know cameras are pointing at you, but I was slightly worried about the safety of the boxers. To his credit, the referee was superb; he recognised quickly when a boxer couldn’t defend himself anymore and prematurely brought the bout to an end.
Fight Night was a great spectacle, and our punditry seats were essentially ringside VIP, which is about as close to a boxing ring as I’d ever like to get. Despite being slightly sceptical to begin, the atmosphere was electric and the boxing proved top-notch entertainment. I’m already looking forward to attending the next Fight Night in November.
Thursday night saw the second edition of Fight Night for the 2018/19 academic year. In all there were 16 fights spanning across the whole evening.
The night itself was spread across three thirds, the first of which saw five very evenly matched fights. Liam Leahy took home the spoils against a spirited Sean Dwyer in the curtain raiser to the night. This was the first in the ‘battle of the bedrooms’ double bill, with the final fight of the night containing Liam and Sean’s housemates, the winners of both fights being given the luxury of first pick of rooms in their house next year.
The second fight of the night brought the first of a trio of female fights. Xanthe Polaine and Bella Harris shared a competitive bout which, by the third and final round, Xan ‘the man’ took to another level, proving to the judges that she had supplied the lethal blows to end Bella’s chances of victory.
Sahil Ilyas brought fire and fury in the third fight of the night against a composed and compact Billy Hayden. A fight, which rather like its predecessor, perhaps took shape in the balance somewhat, finished up with Ilyas clearly looking the fitter of the two fighters, with Hayden seemingly on his final fumes in the last minute of the final round. A deserved victory for Ilyas, but Billy Hayden should go home with sincere pride.
Will ‘MC’ Schofield and Ahmed Ghafouri were next up. A nice combination of Ghafouri jabs saw him dominate the opening round with Schofield definitely coming into his zone in the latter stages of the second round, finishing with a flourish in the third. The tight nature of this affair led the judges to award this fight as a draw. Many a shout was given at the time for a deciding round, however, much to the evident relief of both fighters, the decision before the night began was not to allow any of the fighters to continue into a deciding round after any of the fights.
The final round of the opening third was contested by a very confident looking Tom Black against a returning Rahul Binov, aiming to turn around a point’s loss last time out. Despite carrying 11kg less weight, Tom looked composed throughout, winning, in the eyes of many of the night’s pundits, each of the three rounds. Binov shouldn’t be a name to forget however, with a post-fight interview suggesting that he would bid to make it third time lucky in a future Fight Night.
After an extremely brisk break, Ewan ‘The Scotsman’ Scott and John Whitfield entered the ring for fight six of the evening. A fairly cagey first round finished with a nice combination from Whitfield, leading to Scott being taken to the corner for a check by referee for the night Andy. John picked up from where he left off to control the second round well. Tiredness kicked in somewhat in the final two minutes of the fight, and Scott was able to finish the fight with a few more connecting hits, but Whitfield’s earlier dominance brought home the victory on this occasion for him.
A cracking match up between Blake Forrester and Joe ‘King’ Kormoh then ensued. This was a first (to my knowledge) at Fight Night in the sense that both of these fighters not only were the exact same height, but they also weighed the same at 65kg too. Blake certainly came out the blocks the stronger, however, Joe’s strong ducking and blocking techniques meant that it looked to be level pegging. That early domination carried on into round two as Joe’s early cracks became more and more obvious. The fight entered into a dramatic climax as the ref was forced to stop the fight as Kormoh looked clearly out of it, with Forrester winning on the night and an impressive one at that.
Lucy Napier and Emma Martin appeared next in what was what only can be described as a blockbuster fight. Napier begun with what was a kamikaze of punches as ref Andy was forced to get involved with 18-seconds left of the first round. A long pause ensued in which Martin’s corner was made to throw in the towel. A Napier win on the night, with a clearly over the moon entourage leading celebrations across the ring.
The colossus Alex Bilton, standing at six feet six inches, had somehow managed to grow half a foot in the space of an afternoon as experienced Fight Night commentator Harry Parsons managed to swiftly correct a stat error on the part of the organisers. Henry Cavan came out into the blue corner with equal amounts of confidence. The fight went in favour of Bilton who looked the greater fighter throughout, with a huge right hook causing Cavan to collapse to the canvas for the third time in the second round. Game over for a spirited Cavan who fought against one of the more powerful fighters in the evenings proceedings.
May 2nd saw the return of Fight Night to Venue in the Student's Union for its second run-out of the 2018/19 academic year. The Courier Sport, NSR and NUTV brought live action of all 16 fights on the night, proving to be one of the biggest Fight Nights that Venue has seen.
Whilst Fight Night is a thoroughly professional affair, with Commonwealth Games bronze-medallist Andy McLean taking up the mantle as referee and medical teams on stand-by, one of the things that struck me about this year's fights was the mismatch in heights and weights between fighters.
Fight Nine between Alex Bilton and Henry Cavan was clear evidence of height and weight mismatch. Alex stood at a huge 6"6 whilst Henry stood at a respectable 5"9. That's a gigantic nine inch difference between the pair. Of course in boxing height and weight have a considerable effect on the fight, and this sort of difference could have potentially been dangerous.
Throughout this fight we saw what was essentially like a Year Seven versus a Year Eleven, Henry was rapidly aiming for lower body shots, whilst Alex kept flicking him off. A big left hook from Alex flattened Henry in the first round, illustrating the mismatch. Height also proved to be the deciding factor in round two, when a startled Henry hit the floor from what looked like a cross between an uppercut and a shove from Alex. Alex then delivered what was the final blow to Henry with a big left hook, knocking Henry down and letting Andy stop the fight for good.
The fight between Alex and Henry was incredibly mismatched. Height and weight are decisive factors in a fight, and it's lucky that Andy's experience prevented something which could have been more dangerous from happening.
However, this wasn't the only mismatched fight that took place that evening. Chris Day, standing at 6"6 and weighting 117kg took on Liam Tasker, standing at 6"3 and weighing 92kg. Although upon reading these stats that doesn't sound like a huge difference in comparison to the previous fight- looking at these fighters upon first glance, you would expect Liam to have been destroyed by Chris.
This wasn't the case in an almost David versus Goliath story between Chris and Liam. Within 14 seconds after being on the receiving end of a series of uppercuts and hooks, Chris was knocked down and the medical team advised that he shouldn't continue.
Fight Night is an incredibly professional set-up which gives the ordinary student a chance to experience boxing training delivered by a Commonwealth bronze-medallist and compete on a public stage. The standard of fighting gets better with each Fight Night. However, more thought potentially needs to be given to fighter pairing in future.