After facing near cancellation, UCSB’s 16th annual Fight Night returned to the Events Center last Friday, albeit with 2000 less spectators than last year.
The boxing tournament was presented by the Interfraternity Council after university administrators barred the event’s traditional sponsor, Pi Kappa Alpha, from hosting this year’s event due to the fraternity’s alleged violations of university risk management policies. The tournament’s controversial ring girls – typically comprising of women from various UCSB sororities – were also replaced with members of the UCSB Dance Team.
In addition, amid objections from some campus groups, Associated Students Finance Board gave IFC Fight Night $19,652 for the event, which saw only 2,300 attendants compared to 4,350 from last year. During an April 16 meeting, members from groups such as Take Back the Night attempted to dissuade Finance Board from funding the tournament, alleging that the inclusion of female dancers promoted sexualized violence.
IFC President Henry Lindemann said he believed more students would have attended the tournament if the organizers had kept the ring girls as part of the event. He said complaints from university officials and some campus groups contributed to the change in programming.
“A lot of people said they weren’t going to go without the ring girls there,” Lindemann said. “We definitely would have sold out and made a lot more money if we had ring girls.”
However, third-year mathematics major Matt Barkley said he still appreciated Fight Night, despite the exclusion of ring girls.
“I can see why people would be less interested in going to Fight Night because there were no half-naked girls,” Barkley said. “But I like the fact that this year the event focused on the athletes and the actual fights rather than on the girls.”
This year’s event featured nine bouts, four of which included UCSB student boxers. Fight Night Coordinator and IFC Vice President JP Primeau said the charity event raised about $15,000 for the Say Yes to Kids Foundation at Primo Boxing Club Inc., a local Santa Barbara nonprofit organization that provides an after-school program for youths.
Say Yes to Kids Program Director and Primo Boxing co-owner Jean Pommier, said Fight Night is a major source of financial support for the nonprofit organization. Funds raised from the event will go to paying rent for the club’s location in downtown Santa Barbara.
Pommier said the event’s reputation sometimes distracts from its purpose – raising funds for the charity.
“I think what people are forgetting is this event is for a nonprofit [program] for kids,” Pommier said. “The funds are supposed to go to keep this place going and make a difference in these kids’ lives.”
One of the more popular bouts featured UCSB student and Kappa Sigma fraternity member Brandon Clary, and Tyler Willis of the Academy of Martial Arts in San Carlos.
Initially, the fight appeared evenly matched with both fighters dishing out equal beatings in the first two rounds.
However, Clary asserted control in the third round of the fight, dominating his opponent with jabs and blows to the face. With fans cheering, the final seconds of the fight concluded with Clary emerging victorious, defeating Willis with a flurry of punches.
Clary said his victory was an exhilarating experience, which he credited to the support of the crowd and the encouragement of his fellow greeks.
“The fight was a blast,” Clary said. “Both of us trained hard and it feels great to win. Hearing my fraternity brothers and the crowd yelling my name was the major thing. I told myself ‘I can’t lose now, I have to win.'”
The main event featured the most talented boxers, with Justin Wilson of the Academy of Martial Arts pitted against Erik Scheu of Ron Johnson’s Boxing Club. The fight, a crowd favorite, began with Scheu in the lead during the first round as he successfully demonstrated his striking power. However, Wilson came back to win the match with his superior speed and quick jabs.
Third-year dramatic arts major Brian Beltran said he felt that, overall, Fight Night was a success.
“It was fun,” he said. “Most of the fights were very intense and entertaining. Hopefully next year’s Fight Night will be even better.”