By Oona de Caravalho
Fight Night season has officially begun. Trials took place last week and anticipation is building as the shortlisted fighters are soon to be announced.
So, what exactly is Fight Night all about?
Fight Night is one of the Athletic Union’s (AU) most iconic events, with tickets selling out within minutes. According to Katherine Lo, this year’s Boxing Captain and one of the 2022 Fight Night winners, it’s “bloody, exhilarating, and chaotic.” It’s about discipline, it’s about overcoming fears.
Fight Night is a chance for 20 selected students, representing a range of sports clubs, to enter the ring and show off their boxing skills in front of 1,200 people. It takes place in York Hall, a prestigious boxing venue located in Bethnal Green. Daniel Movahedi, a UFC official, referees the fights.
To compete in Fight Night, students first undergo trials in which their cardio and fitness levels are tested. Katherine explains that contestants do not need to have any prior boxing experience. In fact, most candidates from prior years had not fought previously, including herself. Selection is based more on contestants’ potential, genuine interest, and motivation. Fight Night, at the end of the day, is “all about the mental side. If you really want to do it, then you probably can”.
During trials, the captains also select contestants based on how well they could pair them up. They look at the chemistry between fighters and identify how contestants could be matched for an exciting fight.
Following trials, 20 students are shortlisted to fight, and another 20 students are chosen for the reserves team. Fighters are divided into two teams: blue and red. The blue team is supervised by Katherine, and the red team by Melvin Kirk, Boxing Vice Captain and 2023 Fight Night candidate.
Over the course of nine weeks, candidates train intensively. They partake in three weekly training sessions dedicated to both fitness training and sparring, two of which are led by Coach Lewis Fattahi.
Loukas Manolopoulos, the Secretary of Boxing, describes how Coach Lewis’ “way of teaching is addictive. He has a genuine interest in seeing us succeed and it shows”.
Blue team and red team candidates will then face each other during Fight Night, this year happening on 13 March 2024.
Previous Fight Night candidates have described the event as a memorable and life-changing experience. The thrill of the crowd, the racing adrenaline – Katherine describes how entering the ring to fight “felt surreal, like a movie”. Melvin comments how “hearing the crowd roar right as [he] came out was truly a once-in-a-lifetime exhilarating experience.”
Fight Night has also inspired candidates to pursue boxing at a higher level. Paul Kwarteng, this year’s Varsity Boxing Captain who competed in Fight Night 2022, shares how he “found a passion in the challenge of boxing, from the bloody noses to the sweat-soaked hours of pushing past limits. After fighting in front of over a thousand people, the energy of the crowd and the excitement of being inside the ring drew [him] towards amateur boxing”.
This year, Fight Night will be back better than before. Isabelle Bowsher, the AU Executive responsible for Fight Night, explains how “Fight Night is having a major revamp. We are scaling up production with lights, DJs, a commentator, and a black-tie theme”.
Winners will receive a free AU ball ticket, worth £100, and the best fighter of the night will also leave with a fresh pair of top-tier professional boxing gloves. The stakes are high. As put by Katherine, “we’re really determined to make Fight Night 2024 one of the best”.
To stay up-to-date with Fight Night happenings, check out their very own Instagram page @fightnightlse – this season is one not to be missed. In the words of Fight Night Girl herself, “it’ll be completely rage”.