CUABC future in doubt but club fight on in face of adversity

Let down by the university and struggling to match Oxford’s facilities and manpower, the future for Blues boxing looks bleak. Coaches Lee Mitchell and Kevan Murphy, however, remain defiant, and confident of their chances in this year’s Varsity fixture.

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I arrived at the Cambridge University Sports Centre shortly before the Blues boxing training session was set to finish, hoping to take some pictures for this article.

The session had actually finished 20 minutes earlier, as the team had to disassemble their own gym before the end of the session.

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Cambridge team dismantling their own gym

Not only do CUABC lose 40 minutes of each session to assembling and disassembling their gym, but the club have no permanent ring, and no punch bags. The walls of the recently-completed Sports Centre are not strong enough to support their weight.

With Fenner’s gym, which had eight bags, sold off and no longer a central university sports facility, its replacement in the form of the Sports Centre appears inadequate for preparing the team for competitive fixtures.

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Lee Mitchell, CUABC’s head coach

Head coach, Lee Mitchell, claimed the club felt let down by the current predicament.

“Facilities definitely help. I’m not going to say we’d beat Oxford if we had the same facilities as them, but Oxford have a very good set-up.

“They’re supported well by their university. I think they support all their sports pretty well, and they’ve come across a winning formula that works for them.

“Their head coach said last year to me they’ve got between four and six coaches at all the sessions, and they’ve got a permanent ring and endless bags.”

The Oxford coaches are also paid for their services, a luxury not afforded to the Cambridge volunteers.

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CUABC team in action

Mitchell laughed, and claimed he didn’t want to “keep harping on about it”, but pointed out that Oxford go away on a six-day training camp to Tenerife each year.

“It’s at a proper boxing gym and they conduct sessions for altitude training. It must make a big difference”, assistant head coach Murphy interjected.

Mitchell concurred. “It must really bring the team together.

“We’re trying to do something, but we won’t be going to Tenerife!”

Despite the intermittent laughter, it was clear both coaches feel incredibly frustrated at the situation.

Any training camp will likely have to be funded almost entirely by the boxers themselves. There simply isn’t the funding available from within the club.

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Mitchell went as far as to question the long term sustainability of the club.

Working on a voluntary basis, both coaches must balance their own careers with upwards of five weekly sessions.

“I must admit, I do worry that in another two or three years time there won’t be a Cambridge University boxing club. If we haven’t got a home, and we haven’t got anywhere to train, it’s just going to get harder.

“If I’m not here, if Kevan’s not here, there’s not going to be many boxing coaches that are going to want to take on a load of people if they haven’t got any facilities. That’s my big concern.

“At the minute we enjoy what we do, we’re hooked because we’ve been doing it for a few years now.”

“And because we want to win”, Murphy was quick to add.

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Despite the difficulties the club is currently facing, the pair remain confident of a successful year.

“There are some new arrivals that are going to compliment the team, so we’re hopeful”, Mitchell remarked.

“I am confident that we can make a good account of ourselves, and hopefully win it. It’s not a massive handicap. I think we can still compete with Oxford, definitely.”

Murphy was more bullish in his defence of the team’s chances.

“For the last four years our team have shown they’re technically better boxers. Oxford are very efficient in what they do but our boxers, like Stefan [Lavelle, last year’s captain], he’s a lovely boxer, he boxes really well.”

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Mitchell was quick to interrupt. “Probably don’t put that in the interview, sounds a bit arrogant doesn’t it?”, laughter ensues, “when they’ve beaten us the last four years…”

It’s clear that although spirits are high, the boxing club are operating at a considerable handicap. The club are right to be confident, but it will take a huge effort to overturn the 7-2 defeat they suffered at the hands of Oxford last year.

The hard work and determination of the squad and coaches could be set to take the club to Varsity glory, but for how long?

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