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Baraka Bouts: Fights begin to raise money

Andrew Gastelum | Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Walking into a makeshift classroom at Lakeview Senior Secondary School, Anna Dwyer saw benches used as desks and heard about the drainage problems that affected the living conditions of the students.

This was reason enough to show Dwyer, the Women’s Boxing Club president, that even though the fights had ended, the real fight was not over.

“We have seen how much we have helped the school, but there are still some problems that we can make a big step in fixing with the bouts,” Dwyer said.

While studying abroad last year, Dwyer visited the Lakeview School in Uganda, which is operated by the Holy Cross missions that draw a large amount of their funding from the club’s annual Baraka Bouts.

“It’s reassuring to see that what we do thousands of miles away is contributing to a worthy cause,” the senior said. “All the locals and teachers told us that Lakeview is the best school in the area and it’s nice to know that we have a part in that.”

Baraka Bouts started in an auxiliary gym in the JACC in 2002, serving as the female version of the Bengal Bouts. But now the event has become so popular that they hold the exhibitions in the JACC Fieldhouse in front of hundreds of fans.

“This year we had over 120 girls that came out to train with us when we would usually get around 70 each year at the beginning,” senior boxer Viviana Kim said. “At times it is definitely intimidating but it comes with a personal sense of achievement and a growing experience once we are done.”

The club required each boxer to attend four practices a week. Each practice typically ran 2-3 hours long and included running, calisthenics and sparring. In addition to the grueling practices, many of the club members were new to boxing, and required novice training in rules and standard boxing techniques.

“We really just taught them all of the basics and got them in shape to be as ready as they can for the fights,” senior captain Kayla Bishop said. “But one of my favorite parts of it all is being able to teach the girls about the game and seeing them progress from day one.”

Accordingly, the club paired the 72 competitors by their size and their ability in order to create the best matchups possible for the three-round fights. And for the second year in a row, the club will have two fights going on simultaneously, due to the amount of competitors.

“These girls have worked so hard, mentally and physically, to get each other better,” Bishop said. “At the end of the fight, you will see the two fighters hug and congratulate each other, which is a testament to the bond that they have built.”

Even though each of the fighters works to achieve victory in the ring, they realize that they are fighting for something bigger than just the competition.

“Our coach told us yesterday that no one loses in this contest because the audience gets some entertainment, we grow as fighters and the children in Uganda receive a better education and better lives,” Kim said. “Sometimes you just step out of the ring and realize that you aren’t just helping yourself, but something much greater.”

Baraka Bouts will start at 6 p.m. tonight in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse. Admission is $6 and all proceeds go to benefit the Holy Cross missions in Africa.