At 4:45 p.m. on November 16th, I strolled into the Murrayfield Ice Rink, excited by the prospect of commentating on the inaugural Edinburgh Student Fight Night. I was joined by my co-commentator Will Antoniuk, representing SportsCorner (a FreshAir Radio show), on a much-anticipated livestream.
In the calm before the storm, we meandered around ringside with our microphones, looking for potential interviewees. After chatting with some fighters who were milling around, we were pointed in the direction of ‘Big John.’ John was the trainer of the fighters as they attended his gym, Port o‘Leith Boxing Club, and he gave us some insight into what the process was like for the students:
“We’ve had 46 of the 48 fighters train with us for the past ten weeks. It’s been a mixed bag, people started at different levels, it’s really been good to have them in the gym, everyone has trained hard. Their timekeeping has been atrocious, but I’ve decided to let that go!”
The event was to consist of 24 fights, comprising three, two-minute rounds. Some fighters were complete novices prior to this year, and some had previous experience, so there was matchmaking based on ability and weight.
As people began to spill into the arena, anticipation grew. If it wasn’t complaints about the baltic temperature in the arena, it was feverish chatter from students, who were now flooding in. The fights began, and Will and I were not particularly surprised about the lack of technique on display, but this didn’t matter in the slightest, as the sheer intensity the fighters came out with was extraordinary. In almost all fights, both fighters steamed out the corner swinging, with flurries of punches being thrown within the first 20 seconds of each bout. Although fighters slowed as the rounds went on, fans were raucous, chanting the names of fighters they knew or just whoever they deemed worthy of their vocal support.
As the night progressed, more and more people gathered around the ring until there was a legion of fans willing to support each fighter, with the brilliant atmosphere filtering through to the stands. The event culminated with Tom vs. Tarquin, with the former putting on a dominant display and winning all three rounds of the headline fight.
A rousing rendition of “Sweet Caroline” brought the night to a close, with the stadium announcer playing to the buoyed crowd. As it drew to its conclusion, I was left feeling satisfied with the night of entertainment that had been.
A lingering question throughout the whole event was: Why boxing? Why was this the chosen sport for a massive student black-tie event? A large reason is the impact on combat sports that controversial yet undoubtably popular personalities, such as Conor McGregor and several YouTubers, have had in bringing fans into the sport.
The fact that it has filtered down to university events throughout the country means their impression on this generation of fight fans cannot be underestimated, however much criticism they may receive from the more ‘purist’ fans.
The bell for round two of Edinburgh Student Fight Night will chime in March 2024, and, with the first event being the success it was, it is not to be missed.