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Bengal Bouts: Junior John Bush’s grandfather Jack won a Bengal Bouts title as an ND student in 1952

Eric Retter | Friday, March 3, 2006

When Jack Bush last fought for the Bengal Bouts Heavyweight crown in 1952, the division was still filled with football players using the program for offseason conditioning, cameras captured each fight for television audiences, and Rocky Marciano had never lost a fight.

Fifty-four years later, when his grandson, John Bush, enters the ring for a match being filmed for CSTV, the only difference will be the absence of football players in the weight class.

For John Bush, his grandfather’s legacy has played a part in encouraging him to get a pair of 16-ounce gloves and step into the ring. Like his grandfather Jack Bush more than 50 years ago, John Bush is a member of the boxing club at Notre Dame – and Sunday he will attempt to further family comparisons as he fights in the Bengal Bouts’ heavyweight championship fight.

While family played an important role in his boxing aspirations, John Bush – now in his second year competing in the Bouts – decided to fight for numerous reasons.

“I started after freshman year, after seeing the fights and how exciting they were,” he said. “There was also influence from my grandpa, because my parents told me he had done it.”

In these two years, John Bush has found his experience rewarding.

“I like it a lot so far because, first off, it helps add balance with academics and stuff like that,” John Bush said. “Secondly, I like it because it’s a good way to stay in shape, obviously, and thirdly, it’s a great way to meet a bunch of guys.”

Beyond that, his fighting career has given him a common ground with his grandfather, a 1952 Bengal Bouts champion.

“I’ve talked to him on a certain level and [tried to teach him a couple things],” Jack Bush said.

Since beginning his career, John Bush has also received advice from his great uncle Joe Bush – Jack Bush’s brother – and another former Bengal Bouts participant.

“When I was home for Christmas, [my grandfather and I] would talk about it, he would offer his advice,” John Bush said “He and his brother both did it – they fought each other in the championship actually – and they both would give me their two cents.”

In those meetings, John quickly picked up on whose lessons he should pay more attention to.

“I listened more to my grandpa Jack, he ended up victorious in the end,” John Bush said.

In the 54 years since the fight, much family legend has developed around it. According to Joe Bush – who was two years younger than Jack Bush – their mother sat him down and told him to take it easy on his senior brother. His time would come, Joe’s mother said.

Jack, however, good-naturedly disputes the rumors.

“No, nothing like that happened,” Jack Bush said. “We were both pretty good fighters, [but] I was a right-hander and had a pretty good jab.”

John Bush also confirms the story as legend.

“That’s all speculative,” he said.

Still, those fights hold a special place in Jack Bush’s memory.

“They were televised in Chicago [in those days], and Rocky Marciano was the referee,” Jack Bush said.

For his part, the elder Bush had been hoping his grandson would make the championship, giving him a chance to revisit his alma mater.

I’d love to come, particularly if John made the finals,” Jack Bush said in an interview with The Observer Feb. 25. “I felt bad not coming last year to the celebration of the 75th anniversary.”