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Bengal Bouts: Law student seeks third title to conclude challenge

Douglas Farmer | Friday, February 26, 2010

Outweighing most of his competition by about 20 pounds, one would think Will Burroughs would be able to stomach a punch or two as he pursues his third straight heavyweight championship. Not quite.

“I hate getting it, absolutely hate it,” the third-year law student said. “It hurts … It’s also just the fact that you failed a little bit.”

It did not take long for Burroughs to realize the comedic material he just gave his fellow captains, classmates and his competition.

“That sounds really cocky, and I’m not trying to be cocky,” he said. “I’m going to get made fun of for that one.”

Not many people would have the guts to give Burroughs grief. The former Division I varsity football player now weighs in at 253 pounds, standing 6-foot-2, and ended his semifinal bout 20 seconds into the first round. Yet despite his size advantage and proven potent punch, Burroughs still sees Bengal Bouts as a welcome challenge.

“It’s just a challenge … My first semester here at Notre Dame, it was a tough adjustment,” the 2005 Brown graduate said. “I heard about [Bengal Bouts], and one of my classmates did it when he was an undergrad. I asked him some questions, and got into it and after a few practices, I kind of got hooked.”

Burroughs has always pursued challenges. After four years as left tackle at Brown, Burroughs served for Teach For America for two years as a high school biology teacher and football coach. He then opted to forsake his pre-med degree and enroll in the Notre Dame Law School.

Upon graduation, Burroughs will combine his two Irish passions — law and Bouts — as he is already enlisted in the Judge Advocate General Student Program (JAG).
The fitness aspect of the military should not phase Burroughs, at least not as much as his first day of Bouts practice did.

“The first day the shocking thing is you don’t know what’s going on,” Burroughs said. “You’re thinking boxing — you’re in the gym, doing some jump rope. You warm up in the offseason with something like 500 jumping jacks, and then they say let’s go for a run.”

Weighing 293 pounds in his heyday at Brown, Burroughs had done some running to stay conditioned, but nothing like what he was in store for at that point.

“You think you’re going to go run around the parking lot to loosen up the legs, but then 30 minutes later when you’re still running, you realize these guys take it seriously,” he said.

Three years later, Burroughs is one of “these guys,” an honor not lost on him in the least.
“Some of these captains eat, sleep and live Notre Dame Boxing,” Burroughs said. “For me, as the older law student, to get that recognition, it meant a lot.”

And as the older law student, Burroughs has been amazed by how willing Notre Dame students are to embrace challenges.

“Every day I am amazed at what a Notre Dame student can do. You’ll hear about someone studying for an engineering exam, but they are fighting their semifinal fight that night as well,” he said. “It’s a large number of undergrads who want to get hit in the face.”

That willingness, not his older age, is what distinguishes Burroughs from the undergrad boxers. While many boxers learn to accept the inevitability of taking a few punches, Burroughs cannot fathom such an admission.

“Why? Why accept it?” Burroughs said, sounding legitimately baffled. “Every time you get hit you know you did something wrong.”

Entering his championship bout, Burroughs needs to ready for a few punches. He faced Kevin Crepeau in the title fight last year, and ended the night with a black eye.
But in the end, even the offensive lineman who dreads getting hit will admit that parts of fight night make it worthwhile.

“Walking out has got to be one of the coolest feelings,” Burroughs said. “Knowing your friends and family are there. Walking out, with the robe, it’s all on you, and that’s kind of a cool thing. That’s the challenge.”

Burroughs will get to face that challenge once more Saturday night. He’ll most likely get hit a few more times as well, and he could win his third heavyweight championship, in only three years.

And then, on to the next challenge.