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Bengal Bouts relaxing for senior captain Billy Zizic

Luke Busam | Tuesday, March 16, 2004

No one calls Bengal Bouts relaxing. With pushup counts mounting as high as 1,000, sweat literally dripping off the skin and a constant threat of seeing and tasting one’s own blood, few would ever consider it a soothing daily routine. Yet for senior captain Billy Zizic, Bengal Bouts is exactly that. Compared to his high school days at Culver Military Academy in nearby Culver, Ind., Zizic says boxing is practically a form of meditation. “The stress is easier to manage here. This is more of a release or a form of meditation. I can be more self focused for a while,” said Zizic. Just listening to Zizic’s daily routine at Culver is exhausting. “I was always doing stuff. I never even had a full hour to myself, unless it was Saturday.”Zizic balanced a heavy class load with military and leadership obligations and varsity football practice everyday. It began at 5:30 a.m. with meetings, formation and breakfast before classes started. After a full day of class came football, then a sprint to the shower in order to appear at the parade grounds on time for retreat parade. After dinner brought closed quarters studying from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., which kept all the cadets in their rooms. The impressive routine Zizic set in his early days at Culver earned him a football captainship, the ranks of “Sergeant Major” as a junior and “Regimental Commander” as a senior, making him the highest-ranking cadet at the academy. The distinguished ranks added more responsibilities and more hours to the day. As a senior Zizic’s days finished up with commander’s meetings from 9:30 to 10 p.m. then checking in on underclassmen. “I came back and made sure the underclassmen were in bed, not screwing around or making noise. I’d try to get to bed by 1 a.m. and do it all the next day,” said Zizic.The stress eventually had its effects on Zizic. “I had to go to a cardio center because I was having heart palpitations. We thought it was a heart defect, but it was just the amount of stress and lack of sleep. With football and not being able to sleep, it was just wearing me down,” said Zizic. After graduating from Culver Zizic went on to Loyola University in Chicago where he first discovered his affection for full-contact sports. “I wasn’t big enough or talented enough to play college football. I wanted something new, but still physical. I started boxing in Chicago, doing Muay Thai Kickboxing at Degerberg martial arts academy,” said Zizic. Muay Thai quickly taught Zizic two priceless lessons – how to take a punch and the necessity of respecting a fellow fighter. “The first time I got punched in sparring in kickboxing it was an embarrassing thing. The guy faked a low kick then threw a straight right hand into my nose. My head almost rolled off my shoulders,” Zizic said.Zizic also learned that in kickboxing respecting your opponent is of the utmost importance. “In kickboxing a lot more damage can be done. You can throw knees, elbows, kick to the legs. When you clinch in Muay Thai, you can still knee and even choke if you get the right hold. It’s legal to kick someone in the back, but it never happens. You can elbow some one in a back, but it never happens. There’s a mutual respect for fighters. You learn to respect good fighters,” said Zizic.The respect for a fellow fighter that Zizic learned in Muay Thai has been obvious since his transfer to Notre Dame and earliest days with the Boxing Club. Zizic may be an elusive fighter, but he is never dirty or arrogant in the ring or in practice. As a captain this year, Zizic has taken on many teaching responsibilities. “I try to be more of a teacher and share the limited knowledge I have. It has improved my technique and my understanding of boxing as I have been giving my resources to the other boxers.”In addition to offering personal instruction, Zizic is always willing to fill-in as a sparring partner for anyone in need. Since early February, Zizic racked up 16 official sparring sessions, earning him more pre-tournament ring time than other boxer in the club. The extra time has paid off, as any attentive observer can see. Zizic is perhaps the best technical fighter in the club and his ability to fight switch is certainly the most elusive. “Fighting switch is part of keeping the other guy guessing. If I do that and he thinks I’m confident enough to pull that on him then it will keep him guessing. It might look impressive, but it took a lot of work to be able to do that with stability and confidence. Now its another tool I have in my metaphorical bag to throw another guy off,” said Zizic. As would be expected, Zizic spent his spring break in training and preparation for his Wednesday fight. Zizic combined regular training with desolate runs around campus late at night. He maintains he has no set plan for Wednesday’s match. “I used to try to have a fight plan, then I realized after you get hit the first time your plan disintegrates.”Zizic, of course, hopes for a win on Wednesday, but he says Bengal Bouts isn’t about the leather jacket or the personal glory. “The personal attention you get is wonderful, but always in the back of my mind I do think about what the mission of this organization is – fighting ourselves in order to make something good for the world. As corny as that sounds, its real,” said Zizic.