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Bengal Bouts: Ponzio’s experience about more than fights

Michael Blasco | Friday, February 26, 2010

Nick Ponzio’s four years as a boxer have taught him that what a fighter does outside the ring matters a lot more than what he does inside it. The senior from Dallas, Texas, made living that message his mission as a Bengal Bouts captain.

“I want to pass on a passion for the sport. Boxing is something you can’t really half-ass,” Ponzio said. “You have to be committed to it. We know that some guys will train for five months and be in the ring for four and a half minutes, so you really have to look at the larger goal of our efforts here and realize that the boxing is only part of this event.”

The finance major formerly of Keenan Hall acknowledges that it was hard for him as a young fighter to realize the scope of the Bouts’ mission. Crediting his own coaches and captains for teaching him, Ponzio tries to instill a sense of tradition and social mission in the boxers he now leads.

“Some people look at it as just a boxing match you train for five months for, but it’s really so much more than that,” Ponzio said. “For a program that’s been around for 80 years, it’s pretty amazing to be a part of it, and see how much it’s grown in terms of what we do for them [in Bangladesh]. Eighty years ago, we were donating just so that people over there could eat, and now we’re sending enough money over there to build up an infrastructure and build schools.”

Ponzio, who has reached the semifinals twice in his four years as a fighter, said he felt an immediate connection with boxing as a freshman.

“I started originally playing Interhall football, and a couple of the guys on the team said I should check out boxing,” Ponzio said. “I immediately fell in love with it. I absolutely love my time doing it. Even though it can be a daily grind, it’s a good thing. I’m really glad that I’m doing it.”

While his mother was not thrilled with the idea of Ponzio fighting, his father understood the impact and significance of the Bengal Bouts as a Notre Dame alumnus.

“When they came up to see me fight, they got to chance to see the impact that we have,” Ponzio said. “They understood that it’s not just a boxing tournament.”

Looking back over his time as a fighter and captain for the Bouts, Ponzio cited his first fight as his favorite moment. Like most who tape up for the first time, Ponzio called it an experience without compare.

“I don’t really remember much of my first fight because the adrenaline was pumping so much, but it was an incredible feeling,” Ponzio said. “It’s an experience like nothing else. When everyone is watching you and the lights are on you, it’s pretty hard to emulate.”
With several years of fights under his belt, Ponzio looked towards becoming a captain as a new goal. Remembering the impact that his own captains had on his development, Ponzio hoped to teach the passion and importance of the Bouts to younger fighters.

“I’ve always kind of looked at [becoming a captain] as a goal,” Ponzio said. “When I started boxing freshman year, I looked up at the captains and thought that it would be cool to get to that point. I think captains really give [the Bengal Bouts] a team atmosphere. This gave me the opportunity to lead people.”

Ponzio said his journey from freshman to senior captain in the Bouts has changed him and given him a resiliency that he didn’t know existed before. In the tradition of the Bengal Bouts alumni before him, Ponzio will leave the program with a strength he never knew he had, earned in service to a mission to the people of Bangladesh.

“When you get knocked down and get beat up a little bit, you come out of it better and that’s the only way to get better,” Ponzio said. “Maybe it can be hard from an outsider’s perspective to see the parallels, but once you’ve done it, you have the mentality that you can get back up from anything and be a better person because of it.”