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BENGAL BOUTS: Aiming for perfection

Bobby Griffin | Friday, March 18, 2005

Mark DeSplinter is used to adversity, even though his 9-0-career record would indicate otherwise.

Taking this undefeated mark into the finals this year, DeSplinter is the No. 1 seed in the 165 lb. weight class.

He is a two-time champion as a 160 lb. fighter, and would likely be a three time winner had it not been for his decision to go abroad in London as a junior.

DeSplinter started off his career in a very impressive manner, with his two consecutive championships.

“My freshman year I won,” DeSplinter said. “I beat a senior in the finals.”

“Going into the fights, I knew I was in pretty good shape. I remember Pat Dillon (DeSplinter’s opponent who he beat in the semifinals) telling me that I had a pretty easy route into the semis, but after that I didn’t know if I was going to beat him.”

These wins are quite the accomplishments for a kid whose boxing career was very close to ending following his meteoric rise freshman year.

Early into DeSplinter’s sophomore year at Notre Dame, months before the Bouts started, DeSplinter was climbing over a broken bathroom stall when the door broke, splitting in half, and subsequently severing the champion’s foot.

DeSplinter looked down to find a deep gash above his right ankle, bleeding profusely, much worse than any right hook could possibly elicit.

“I almost cut my right foot off in December,” DeSplinter said. “There was like a wall that fell on my foot, that almost cut my foot off.”

The sophomore had cut through three tendons and cracked a portion of the bone in his foot.

Confined to a cast, DeSplinter hobbled into the first day of practice focused on successfully coming off the injury and working hard to return to his previous form.

He did.

The boxer won his second consecutive Bengal Bouts title only months later, against a fighter named Tom Pierce, a good friend of DeSplinters.

“I almost didn’t get to fight but I annoyed the people enough to where they let me at least try,” DeSplinter said.

It’s not surprising that DeSplinter was able to come off this injury in such a successful manner.

Mark “Rambo” DeSplinter comes across as an intense worker, relentlessly jumping rope when few others are in the gym.

He carries himself with an air of confidence, but in a non-imposing way.

The boxer is friendly, but at the same time, he gives off the very focused attitude that you would expect from a skilled fighter.

DeSplinter laughs about his injury now, almost embarrassed to actually admit how he injured his foot.

However, the senior becomes more serious when discussing the hard work he had to put in to defend his championship following the accident.

“That was one of the bigger challenges I’ve had just during boxing, coming back to practice the first day and not being able to get on the balls of my feet, or run, or hop on my feet,” DeSplinter said. “There were a lot of times I just wanted to give up and say ‘screw this, I don’t want to fight, this is too much.'”

Of course, DeSplinter did not give up, and this dedication is part of the reason why he is so successful in the ring.

This year, DeSplinter is clearly focused on winning his third final in his three years of competition, however he realizes that the task is difficult.

“Our weight class is absolutely stacked, especially at the top,” DeSplinter said before Wednesday’s semifinal round. “[Patrick] McMorrow was really good, Brian Nicholson went to the finals last year, and [Colin Kerrigan] has also won two championships,” DeSplinter said.

Brian “Honey Boy” Nicholson is the fighter that DeSplinter will have to be worried about Saturday night.

“This is the last year, you know, I want to do really well,” DeSplinter said.

While many of Notre Dame’s sports fans will be crowding around their TVs to see who will advance to the Sweet 16 on Saturday, DeSplinter will be focused on once again becoming a champion.

Nicholson, the No. 2 seed and DeSplinter’s opponent, has had a challenging road to the final, defeating Colin Kerrigan in the semifinals.

With the success DeSplinter has had during his time at Notre Dame, it is surprising that he was not particularly interested in boxing when he came to school as a freshman.

Looking for something to keep him healthy, DeSplinter’s older brother introduced him to boxing at Notre Dame, who was a senior at the time.

DeSplinter also had a cousin who had been involved with Bengal Bouts as well.

“I just decided to try it out and I just kind of fell in love with it [when I found out] how hard it was, and the dedication it takes, and what if requires of you like everyday to just come out here and beat yourself to death,” DeSplinter said.

DeSplinter has also learned valuable lessons from his boxing, intangibles that he will take on when he takes off his gloves and steps out of the ring for good.

“It just kind of gives you the confidence you need to go through life. There is a great quote by Tyson’s trainer [Cus D’Amato], ‘Boxing isn’t the elimination of fear, it’s just a way to deal with it,'” DeSplinter said.

“If you can get in the ring with another guy who is ready to beat your head off, and you can stay in there and fight back, you can do basically anything else that comes at you in life.”

DeSplinter is a bright individual, who is destined for success in whatever forum he chooses. The lessons that he learns from his time as a Bengal Bouts champion will surely manifest themselves in a positive manner.

But before that can happen, DeSplinter is focused on other things.

After all, he still has one more fight to win.