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Bengal Bouts: Doran reaches third straight championship

Jack Hefferon | Friday, March 4, 2011

Ever since Knute Rockne first organized a student boxing tournament in 1920, thousands of students have dedicated themselves to beating all competitors and becoming a Bengal Bouts champion. For senior captain Mike Doran, though, Bengal Bouts is about much more than having his name called.

Doran first got involved with the bouts as a freshman when several of his friends decided to enter together.

“Early on I became friends with Nick Severyn, and he told me, ‘You’ve got to do this, it’s a great time.’ So we got a bunch of freshmen together and went to practice. A couple of guys ended up quitting, but Nick, Bobby [Powers] and I have been doing this ever since, and now we’re all captains,” he said.

Doran lost in his second fight that first year, but by then he was already hooked on boxing and the Bouts. He came back in his sophomore year and he made an impressive run to the finals. Waiting for him in the championships was Mike Lee, now a professional fighter, one of Doran’s mentors and one of the best boxers in Bengal Bouts history. That night’s fight is the one Doran calls the best moment he’s had in Bengal Bouts.

“Stepping up into that finals ring, it’s totally different from all of the other fights. It’s out in the basketball arena, and that place is packed,” he said. “Mike ended up beating me, but that experience was unreal. That was my ‘Welcome to Boxing’ moment.”

One year later, Doran began training once again for a title run. After another string of victories, he found himself in a familiar spot: inside the Joyce Center with a shot at a title. This time, Doran came out on top, winning the 180-pound weight class in a split decision over Dominic Golab.

“I’ve really been able to grow and mature throughout my time in Bengal Bouts here at Notre Dame, but I never thought that I could be winning championships and doing so well,” he said.

A few months after that triumph, Doran was selected to be one of four boxers to travel to Bangladesh through the Center for Social Concerns. Doran spent nine weeks teaching English and interacting with the people, and he said that experience opened his eyes to what Bengal Bouts was all about.

“We were only the second group to be sent over, so I wasn’t sure what to expect at first,” he said. “I primarily taught English, but we taught from primary schools to high schools, and even some adults and NGO workers. Before this initiative we had just been sending over money, but this allowed us to bridge the gap between us and them. Now, I feel like I really understand the mission of what we’re doing here and why we’re doing it.”

Upon returning from the mission in Bangladesh last summer, Doran knew that he wanted to have a larger influence on the program he had gotten to know so well. He applied to be a Bengal Bouts captain this year, and was accepted to be a leader of the next generation of fighters.

“A lot of the guys I’ve looked up to have been captains,” Doran said. “This program is phenomenal at taking high school boys and turning them into men, and being a captain, having to bring them up and teach them, you play a large role in that process.”

In his final year, Doran has once again outperformed the competition, and finds himself in his third straight championship match. That consistency, coupled with his 11-2 lifetime record, puts Doran at a level of success few boxers have ever been able to achieve. Doran’s final match will not be an easy one, as Bill Straccia, a fellow senior, is standing in his way. However, Doran said he was excited for one last chance to step into the ring for a championship.

“I’m feeling really excited for Friday’s match,” Doran said. “Billy’s a great kid and he’s really hungry this year. I have a lot of tension between nervousness and excitement right now, but my family’s coming out, and I can’t wait.”

The lights in Purcell Pavilion will turn off eventually after Friday’s fights, but Doran’s future beyond boxing is anything but dim. He will graduate in May with a degree from the College of Business, but said he would stick around for postseason play with his other team, club rugby.

“After that, I’m moving to Denver to do marketing for Dish Network. I’m a big snowboarder, fisherman and mountaineer, so I’m looking forward to that,” Doran said. “I’m very excited about the next stage of my life, but I’ll definitely take a piece of this experience with me forever. It’s been an honor to fight for Our Lady’s University. There’s nothing like competing in Bengal Bouts.”