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Bengal Bouts Insider: Basola goes from novice to captain in a few short years

Joe Meixell | Friday, March 3, 2006

When Mark Basola first heard of Notre Dame’s charity boxing tournament, he had never fought in his life.”I heard about [Bengal Bouts] the summer before coming here – from some family friends,” the senior said. “[Joining] was really out of character for me. I had never thrown a punch before my freshman year at Notre Dame.”For Basola, who played basketball and swam in high school, the Bengal Bouts novice program served as a way to transition into a totally new sport – one that was much more demanding than anything he had done before. Older boxers and alumni coaches taught him the nuances of the “sweet science” of boxing and helped him through the rigorous training.Basola said those mentors were crucial in his development as a boxer.”The novice program was my introduction to boxing,” Basola said. “I got to see what the workouts are like. It also got me into some semblance of shape. It’s much more physically demanding than basketball in a lot of ways.”Now, Basola is repaying the favor. As Bengal Bouts co-president, he is tutoring young fighters not only to hold their own, but also to excel in the ring.”A lot of my time with the program is taken getting the novices up to speed,” Basola said. “We make sure they talk to us when they need help. They come to us to ask questions so we can build them up and make them better fighters.”Most freshmen start training in the fall, giving older fighters several months to prepare for the Bouts come March. However, the group does accept a few new members at the start of the spring semester. These fighters come in knowing their training will be even more intense as they race against time to be ready for the Bouts.”We get a select few who do start doing the program in the spring,” Basola said. “They’re real novices so we have to work hard to make sure they can participate in the fights and do well.”Training sessions, which can take up 20 hours per week as the tournament nears, are as rigorous, if not more so, than any varsity sport. “The workouts are very structured,” Basola said. “First we do our calisthenics – we call them ‘cals.’ We do 333 push-ups a day because we want to do a total of 10,000 by the end of the season. Also we do 500 sit ups per day.”On top of that we do our training and form work, which is where we teach the novices how to fight.”Although the training is intense, Basola said he does not condone excessive weight loss to compete in a certain weight class.”We try to discourage that as much as possible,” he said of fighters “cutting” weight. “We tell them not to do anything crazy.”Besides physical workouts and technical instruction in boxing, the novices receive valuable experience sparring, which is important to overcome the psychological hurdle of climbing into the ring to fight another person.”You’re very alone in boxing,” Basola said. “It’s you and another guy in the ring and you have to fight with your fists.”As co-president, Basola has many other responsibilities aside from training younger fighters.”You have to be on top of everything,” he said. “You have to work with … RecSports to do the paperwork for the Bouts, you have to make sure that donations are coming in. You have to get the ads for the programs, which is how we make most of our money. You have to make sure the training is up to speed. You have to make sure that there are EMTs in the pit so we can spar. And you have to make sure the coaches are up to speed so they know what’s going on.”Of course, Basola is not alone in organizing the 150-plus member club and 130-plus fighter tournament.”[Bengal Bouts co-president] Nate Schroeder shouldered almost all of the administrative work,” Basola said. “We also have eight captains in the club. They organize the training and work with the novices.”Also working with the program are Bengal Bouts alumni, including law professor Charles Rice, University pilot Pat Ferrell and Tom Suddes, a Notre Dame alum who travels from Ohio every year to help with the Bouts.”We’ve got some dinosaurs in the program that come back year in and year out,” Basola said.As for the senior, his four year Bengal Bouts career has seen many ups and downs, culminating in his 160-pound championship last year.In his first two years, Basola advanced to the second round but was unable to win more than one match. He said he’s improved a lot technically from those early bouts.”[My freshman year] I was really nervous and really excited,” Basola. “I kind of lost control and started throwing punches without thinking.”This year, Basola was upset in the quarterfinals by sophomore Jeff Hausfeld, one of his proteges. Hausfeld defeated Mark Hinken Thursday in their semifinal bout and will take on Greg Schaefer in the finals Sunday at the Joyce Center.