Sport writer Kieren Williams reports on the UoB Kickboxing Team’s latest competition successes in a four-part special for Redbrick Sport, in Part 4, he reports on the evening of finals for UoB
The stage was set, the lights danced across the ring, the audience poured in and the finalists finished their preparations for their three minutes of fame in the Leeds student union.
The first final for UoB was the women’s middleweight beginner, the category we had made our own. We were guaranteed a victory, it was just a question of whom it would be, the current secretary in Gray, or the future in Keogh – was this just some new form of initiation I wasn’t aware of at the time? The camp was once again split to different corners of the ring and as the lights descended and the booming intro music had finished, the fighters were in the ring, the audience was ready and raring and all was set for the fight.
Both girls fought their best fights in the final, despite having fought earlier in the day they powered through tiredness and fatigue, Keogh landing a few impressive kicks and being repaid in kind with Gray’s solid jab. The two girls fought it out like titans and I was thoroughly confused who to cheer for as the first round ended and the second began. Neither shied away from the occasion, in front of the crowd and cameras they performed and impressed to the very end of the second round.
The judges were asked for their decision, they called it, Keogh had won. But both fighters had been fantastic throughout the competition and thoroughly deserved how well they did and the trophies they received. They’ve earned the pride of wearing their societies hoodies knowing they’re both champions.
Before UoB could even recover the very next fight was Birmingham Uni’s own Andrew Cooke. Facing off against the fighter who had ejected his teammate in the first round, Cooke looked sharp as the two touched gloves and the fight began in earnest.
The two giants’ punches and kicks could be felt from the ringside seats and the crowd cheered on their chosen champions. Three times Cooke put his opponent on his butt, but three times his opponent rose to meet him again. Cooke focused on his hands, piling on the pressure as he repeatedly punched his opponent in the face, but his opponent – a boxer originally by training – withstood the barrage and returned the favour in kind. The fighters had both had a long route to the final and were tired, this began to show in the ring towards the end of the second round but they fought through.
The decision was the judges’ to make, they made it, Cooke had lost, his opponent was given the victory but in his first competition with not even a year kickboxing experience under his belt, Cooke had made it all the way to the final and fought harder than he ever had before. He made me proud to stand in his corner in that final fight.
The night ended there for UoB’s fighters, we cheered on whomever ended up in the corner closest to us in the ring. Screaming and bellowing for the underdog endlessly right up to the last cartwheel kick in the last fight. UoB left their second kickboxing championship impressively having established themselves amongst the other universities with much bigger kickboxing clubs. UoB kickboxing is a relatively new society, we’re the plucky underdogs, the dirty dozen, the Cinderella men, the karate kids!
Last year we only won one fight. This year, we only won one category … we also had two runner ups, dominated one entire division, one semi-finalist and a fourth-rounder. Only three of our fighters didn’t win one fight. All I’m saying is, mathematically speaking, in five years, at our current rate of improvement, we’ll basically win the entire competition.