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Spar for the course

Luke Busam | Thursday, February 5, 2004

The newly re-matted ring in the Joyce Center Boxing Room began its speckling process as the first drops of blood from the 2004 Bengal Bouts season struck its surface Monday afternoon. The spots of crimson will continue to accumulate over the next several weeks as the boxers glove up for their first full contact sessions. These initial sparring sessions bring this year’s boxers one step closer to the 74th annual Notre Dame Bengal Bouts Tournament which begins Feb. 25. Well over 100 boxers will participate in the charity boxing event this year, pushing their bodies and minds to raise much-needed money for the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh. Experienced members of the boxing team welcomed the onset of sparring as an opportunity to polish skills that may have faded slightly and remind themselves of the full experience of the ring. “Its great to get your head snapped back once or twice to get back to reality,” club co-president and senior captain Pat Dillon said. Dillon said that even experienced boxers will overestimate their abilities prior to their first spar of a new season. “Everybody thinks they are better than they are until they get hit by a straight right hand in sparring,” Dillon said. Fellow senior captain Stefan Borovina agreed with Dillon, saying these early sessions are a great way to work out the initial stiffness and get the full feel of the ring again.Newer boxers met the change in training with slight apprehension. “It was kind of hard to get rid of the butterflies. And it’s nerve-racking to put the head gear on for the first time, but I love it now,” freshman Chris Calderone said.Senior Don Zimmer, who is participating in his first Bengal Bouts, likened his first sparring experience to the first time he went scuba diving. “It’s like when you are first underwater, and its sort of euphoric, but it comes with a bit of a head rush,” he said. “I’m not sure if that’s from hyperventilating or getting popped in the chin.”These early sparring sessions mark a shift in intensity from earlier practices, and as newer boxers gain ring time, the battles in the Boxing Room will become more fierce. A number of veteran boxers, including Larry Rooney and Bill Philip, said they were excited to be sparring again, as it is a nice change of pace from day-to-day training. Club co-president and senior captain Tommy Demko agreed and recognized a change in practice tempo. “It’s a shift of intensity,” Demko said. “Guys start practicing a lot harder when they realize what they have to do. They realize this is the next step.” The onset of sparring has also added a number of items to boxing secretary Kristin Boyd’s already lengthy daily to-do list. Boyd, a junior at Notre Dame, has been involved with the Boxing Club since last year. In addition to the usual processing of medical forms, consent forms, attendance sheets, accumulation of dues and soliciting of ads, Boyd gives the final consent for each boxer to spar after checking off a number of necessary requirements. “It’s a lot more work,” Boyd said, as she printed off a sparring card and grabbed a ringing phone. “I basically have final approval of who gets in the ring.” When not sparring, the boxers practice their form and footwork under the guidance of the captains. First-year captain Billy Zizic said that, in his new role, he has taken on more instructive duties. “We’re trying to show the guys more than just fundamentals – more contemporary boxing styles rather than the typical Bengal Bouts style of two guys back on their heels just swinging,” he said. “The preliminaries will tell whether it all pays off or not.”Zizic said this year’s group of boxers is a great group and his own skills have vastly improved as a result of instructing others. “Sometimes the best teacher you can have is yourself, because you show a guy something, and it makes you think ‘Wait, I can do that, too,'” Zizic said. When not in training, the boxers are actively selling program ads to family members, friends and local business. These program ads are a major source of revenue for the Bengal Bouts, and all boxers are required to sell at least one ad before their first sparring session.

Individuals or businesses interested in purchasing ads or giving to the Bengal Mission Bouts can obtain ad cards and contact information at http://bengalbouts.nd.edu. Individual boxers are also available to take ad requests from interested parties.