FOLLOWING Exeter University Boxing Club’s first varsity of the year in November, the ring returned to The Lemon Grove on Friday 16 February. With three EUBC men taking to the canvas — alongside several bouts from nearby amateur clubs — the night was another success as the punters were treated to an action-packed night of boxing.

Proceedings began with an excellent showing from five junior bouts. The youngsters from Torbay, Sydenham ABC, Cheltenham’s Kings, Paignton, Yeovil and Exeter amateur boxing clubs all produced brave and entertaining displays, roared on by their families and friends.
Following that came the seniors, and first up was Exeter’s James Peck as he took on Ryan Rodriguez from Portsmouth. The lightweight bout began in cagey fashion as both fighters found their range, Peck landing a neat left-hand combination in the first 30 seconds, before being caught by Rodriguez’ right.

James Peck faces Ryan Rodriguez

Rodriguez then forced Peck into his corner, catching him with a left hook after the Exeter man ducked to evade the shots coming his way. The second round started with Peck on the defensive once more. Having found his range, however, he landed a nice combination on the counter. Despite this, Rodriguez managed to mostly avoid Peck’s dangerous right-hand — a nice upper-cut in close, followed by a right hook, was enough warning for the Portsmouth man to stay clear, and he responded by producing a series of powerful straight-rights himself.

As the second drew to a close, Peck was pushed back to the ropes before a flurry from both fighters was halted by the bell. Rodriguez came out firing in the third round, throwing two searing rights in quick succession that Peck did well to avoid, connecting instead with a left-right combination. Peck utilised a low stance and showed good movement throughout, looking to uncoil with his right. However, unable to work his way inside with the jab, the remainder of the fight saw Rodriguez pick away from a distance.

The Exeter man finished on the front foot, dropping his hands and looking for a big right to end the fight, but Rodriguez did enough to hold him off and take the victory on a unanimous points decision. The intermission allowed the watching crowd to catch their breaths, and see EUBC’s Cat Holst come into the ring to be presented with the British University Women’s Boxing Champion trophy for 2018.

Next up for Exeter was Aron Syverson at welterweight. He faced Rewson Rai — also from Portsmouth University. Syverson began the fight confidently. Clearly the aggressor from the start — a nice left-hand hook, followed by clever use of the jab, set a promising tone — the bout saw Rai look to fight from the peripheries.

It was a tactic that proved effective, as southpaw Rai countered well — a powerful right hook midway through the round stood out amongst several good overhand lefts. With the round going away from him, Syverson responded with a clever combination to bring the crowd to life. A left hook with 10-seconds to go was quickly followed by another as Syverson looked to get inside and cause real damage, but as it was Rai looked to have done enough to edge the first.

Aron Syverson finds his range

The second, however, belonged to Syverson. With the Exeter man dominating the centre of the ring, he refused to yield to Rai’s increased tempo and footwork. After initially landing a left-right combination that saw Syverson dive away from the centre, Rai did well to survive. Syverson rocked the Portsmouth man with a huge shot, catching him again as a flurry came flying his way. Rai could only respond with some wild swings himself — one of which caught Syverson on the nose, drawing blood — but another big right-hand from Syverson had the visiting fighter rocking at the close of the second.

With the fight evenly poised, Rai began the third round with another wild swing that failed to make its mark. Instead, Syverson built upon his good work at close range, closing the distance repeatedly to land with his right and force Rai to resort to the clinch. In the final minute of the fight, Syverson still resolutely held the centre-ground. A messy coming together led Rai to claim a rabbit-punch before briefly taking a knee — the breather saw him respond with a powerful overhand that caught Syverson.

Rai was warned in the closing seconds to keep his head up as the Portsmouth man looked for the knockout blow, but with the crowd roaring him on Syverson found the energy for one final foray towards his opponent. It proved to be enough, as the incredibly close bout went his way on a split decision from the judges.

After the fight, Exeposé caught up with Syverson who was delighted with the victory: “I’ve got to say that was definitely my favourite fight I’ve fought, winning in front of the club for the first time was an ecstatic feeling.”

Finally, Exeter’s Shaun Lee-Tassell entered the ring looking to avenge his narrow defeat in the last varsity in November. Up against Taren Aujla, the light heavyweight bout was a fantastic contest of differing styles. Classy movement and counter-punching against the agreessive Aujla saw Lee-Tassell work well off the ropes — a lovely combination finishing with a left-hand uppercut the pick of his measured shots in the first that saw him pick off his opponent with his greater range.

Shaun Lee-Tassell throws a left

The intensity was raised significantly in the second round. Pinned to the ropes once more, this time Aujla’s aggression got through Lee-Tassell’s smart guard and evasive movement. A left-hand slug connected as the Exeter man weaved, and a hook sent Lee-Tassell retreating into the blue corner. In the final seconds, both fighters looked out on their feet as the sheer number of punches thrown took its toll — Lee-Tassell was still able to land two effective straight right-handers before the bell despite Aujla’s power-punching.

The third saw Aujla come out swinging once more. Amongst some wild, weary and wayward shots, the aggression of the Portsmouth man resulted in blows to both the body and the head of his Exeter opponent. Lee-Tassell — on the ropes once more — was still able to free his left to land counter-punches, but it looked unlikely to be enough to defeat the sheer volume thrown by Aujla.

As it was, with 20-seconds to go, a left hook caught Lee-Tassell on an existing cut above his right eye. Despite consternation from the Exeter corner, the referee stopped the fight to take the decision out of the judges’ hands and bring an end to an enthralling contest and an entertaining night of boxing.

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Wil Jones
BA English. Sport Editor for 2017-18.