Knock out at the GNSK

Eyes dead ahead, Cyrus Mallon makes his way past the audience to the ring. His coach gives the boxer one last pep talk. Then the bell rings, and the fight starts. For the PhD student originally from America, the preliminary round of the Great Dutch Student Championship (GNSK) has begun. Should he win, he will take part in the real GNSK next weekend.

The GNSK is just a few days away. Approximately 1,600 athletes will compete in 17 different sports. Groningen is organising the event this year, and has picked boxing as one of the nine optional sports. Because only one fight is allowed each day, they decided to have the tournament’s quarter finals at an earlier stage. There are nine fights scheduled.

That is why on this Saturday afternoon, a normal sports hall has been transformed into a bonafide boxing ring. Spotlights illuminate the ring, and all the seats are filled, some by family and friends who have come to cheer on their heroes and some by volleyball players, indoor football players and tennis players. Everyone wants to witness a boxing match at least one.

Super fit and good-looking

‘He gets up – he wants to continue – but the referee is unrelenting’

Cyrus Mallon is one of the boxers sent by the Groningen association Pugilicé. The association delivered a strong bid book to the GNSK organiser and was allowed to execute their plans. ‘Boxing is clearly becoming more popular among students’, says Kelly Goslinga, president of the committee responsible for the boxing division. ‘You have to be super fit to do it, and it’s an attractive sport to watch. Over the past two years, our association has grown from 50 to approximately 75 members. That also has to do with the fact that we have a Dutch boxer going to the Olympics in Peter Müllenberg.’

‘In the blue corner: Cyrus Mallon!’ yells the announcer. He is facing Marten Bloch. In three two-minute rounds, the athletes will fight to determine who is strongest. They do this under the watchful eye of a referee, provided by the boxing league. Boxing may be a martial art, but there are still numerous rules in place to protect the athletes. This becomes painfully clear to Mallon after taking a hit and momentarily going down. He gets up – he wants to continue – but the referee is unrelenting: it is a knock out. Surprised, Mallon looks to his coach, but there is no sense in protesting.


The tournament is over for the American, who is bummed out. Next weekend, the remaining contestants will fight in the semifinals and finals, in different weight classes. ‘We’ve got eight fights on Saturday and fourteen on Sunday. But we might move some around. Physically, people can’t really handle more than one fight per day’, says Goslinga.

‘I didn’t think people would be this interested’, Elise Kroontje of the GNSK organisation jokes. ‘We’ll take care of all the details over the coming week. We’re hoping it’ll be a great weekend. I think it will be fine.’

GNSK facts

– The GNSK is held in a different city every year. This year, it is up to Groningen to organise the  58th edition, which takes place between 17 and 19 June.

– In addition to eight predetermined sports, each year also sees several optional sports. This 2016 edition is made up of a total 17 sports, a record number.

– Approximately 1,600 contestants will travel to the Zernike complex from all over the world to compete.

– The Knickerbockers field will serve as a camp site to house all the athletes.

– On Saturday night, there will be a large party for all the competing athletes and the event volunteers.