Fight Night, one of the most notorious student nights of the year, returns this month. Getting dressed up with your friends, preing way too hard, and finally Ubering to the AO Arena where the hip flask you smuggled in definitely comes in handy. I went along to training to see the students taking part in the event on November 24, to understand what it was that encouraged them to sign up and to see how gruelling their training really is.
Here is a brief overview of the night; 24 students are selected out of the many who apply. They are then put to three sessions of training each week for eight weeks, finally leading up to their white-collar match in November. Each fighter is paired up based on their skill level and weight and they compete for 360 seconds – two sets of three-minute bouts. There are three judges who award points and after each match, a winner is crowned, either the red or the blue fighter.
The training they go through is extensive; footwork, fitness, technique, and determination are all taught at the Moss Side Fire Station Boxing Gym owned by Maurice. These students come away dripping in sweat, yet with bright smiles stretching across all of their faces.
Although there was a high sense of nerves when asking these students how they felt approaching their fights, one could see the commitment they had to put on the best performance, making themselves and their coaches (Danny and Maurice) proud.
Upon entering their training, I was greeted by Maurice Core, a retired professional boxer who won nine of his ten first professional fights. Maurice was the definition of fitness, casually doing pull-ups whilst explaining the history behind the Moss Side gym where he learnt his trade, and now passes on his knowledge to others.
Maurice has been training the students for the Manchester Fight Night since it began five years ago and seemed to thoroughly enjoy watching them improve as his coaching is predominantly voluntary. Moss Side gym’s spirit and energy was unmatched and Maurice’s pride in the centre was evident.
As the students filed in for their training, they began sparring, skipping, press ups, and more with barely a few minutes break in their hour-long session. They were certainly put through their paces, yet all seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the atmosphere and pressure to perform surrounding them. Most of these students have no experience with fighting, and despite being out of their comfort zone they all thrived. The competitors were putting every effort into getting into the best shape possible and learning as much as they could.
After continuously hitting a boxing bag, Danny made them all raise their arms to the sky and hold it for a minute as he shouted: “Winners do not quit. Keep your arms raised as you will be doing this after you win your fight. Losers will drop their arms.”
Knowing that half of the students in the room would not win their fight did not seem to faze anyone in there. They had separated comradeship from the competition. They were no longer students working out together, they were boxers with a clear aim to win in mind.
However, it seems wrong to brush over the violence being taught to these students. There has been a couple of injuries during training, but this only proves that this is not for the faint-hearted. The attention of the night lures many in, but it is those who really want to compete who succeed. I posed the question to many of them of how their families reacted when told that they were taking part in Fight Night.
Esme Russell told us that her sisters “were all for it,” yet she had not told her Grandparents for they would rightly worry about her safety. Immi Phillips’ sister had a similar reaction, but her dad took a while to come around, eventually agreeing to be there on the night to support her in her fight. Most of these students faced resistance from their close ones when they accepted their place on Fight Night but, on seeing their determination to fight it didn’t take long to gain support.
Upon asking the fighters why they signed up I was faced with a mixture of responses. A large amount admitted to signing up drunk or on a whim, whilst Amatullah Khan responded by saying she was disappointed to not be selected last year so she signed up again and was happily picked this time around. Even with her family not wanting her to do it.
There were a couple of fighters who had experience with boxing, but the majority were new to the craft. With less than three weeks now until they fight, the tension is building. Will you be there on the night to support them? Do you agree with the ethics behind Fight Night? Let us know!
For updates on the fighters and Fight Night, follow them on their Instagram: @manchester_fight_night, and Facebook: @ManchesterFightNight
If you’d like to buy a ticket or just want more information on Manchester Student Fight Night click here.
If you’d like to experience boxing training at the Moss Side gym then sign up here for pay-as-you-go sessions.