Blood, sweat and beers. If there were ever three words that would describe the Rector’s Cup, they would be it. Last week, we discovered the wonder that was Morphy Day and how it was a sporting and social highlight for half a century. But what of the other events? This week, we delve into the sweet science that is boxing.
During the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, Imperial’s boxing club was at it’s peak as Fred Carr, the IC Boxing Club Captain in 1954 explains:
“In the past this college has had very strong and good boxing teams, and in the last few years it has constantly been winners or runners-up in the U.A.U. [University Athletic Unions] Boxing Championships, and many of our members have boxed for the University.”
The strength of the Imperial Boxing Club and the endless stream of champions seemed to stem from the grass routes within the College itself. Towards the end of the second term, the three faculty colleges would convene upon the Union and watch the students beat the living daylights out of each other whilst enjoying a few kegs of beer. All the while, the Rector of the College would join in with them and in fact present the eventual winning club captain and the best boxer of the evening, with a trophy, hence why the event was called the Rector’s Cup.
From the felix archive, it seems that the Rector’s Cup had a short, but illustrious history. Out of the 15 years it ran, the Royal School of Mines won the Rector’s Cup for 11 years of those years and shared the trophy with the City and Guilds for one of them. But how was it that a Faculty which only had 250 students at the time were able to produce such great results in the boxing? Here we have the recollections of Jim Platt, a Mining Geology student between 1957-1960.
“Though the RSM was numerically at the foot of the totem pole it had no impact on the RSM in the Rectors Cup, as we regularly took the tournament by storm. This feat of conquest was achieved by us entering more contestants for the tournament than the other two colleges combined were able to muster. It was considered a matter of duty for any ‘Mines’ man to declare himself ready to box.”
And so the secret of the Miners success is made evident, shear numbers, although why the other two faculties never figured this out is beyond me. Or maybe, they did and they simply chose to enter into a fight with a Miner… Although don’t let this fool you, even though the Miners did have more entrants than any other faculty, those that they did enter were actually good. The majority of the Imperial boxing team were actually composed of Miners, with Len Palmer winning the UAU feather-weight championship two years on the trot.
Setting aside the prowess of the Imperial Club, what about the Rector’s Cup, was it a big deal. In 1955, for the first time in the history of the Rector’s Cup the tournament was held under the auspices of the Amateur Boxing Association who supplied the officials, thus improving the quality of the evening. Considering also that the Rector actually attended the event I would imagine so, and if Jim Platt’s testimony is anything to go by, it seems that the rivalry was huge.
“ [I] was lucky to survive round one and ended up being counted out in round two when the referee stopped the fight in my opponent’s favour. I thought it would be appropriate to make a protest to the decision, but in truth I was glad that the bout was over. The one good thing was that I went down to a man from Guilds, leaving me thankful for the small mercy that an RCS man was not in the opposite corner.”
Although the crowds that attended were not in the same league as that of Morphy Day, the rivalry was. But, although it seemed that there was promise for this event to last the test of time, it suddenly stopped in 1963, after there was not enough committee members to run the event, although the Boxing Club continued for some years. The event had died out, most likely due to a combination of things; not enough interest for people to enter, most likely due to the Miners always having more entrants than the other two faculties combined. Or maybe it was the fact that the only protection they received in the ring were the gloves on their hands, as we can clearly see from the pictures that they didn’t wear any head gear. Eventually, the Imperial Boxing Club died out, again probably due to the same reasons that the Rector’s Cup died out.
40 years on and it seems that the interest for boxing is back. Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, IC Boxing has already become a big hit. Who knows, maybe the Rector’s Cup will make a comeback, although I’m not sure how likely it will be for the Rector to actually turn up.