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Bengal Bouts: Golab grows from focused freshman to leader and captain

Matthew DeFranks | Friday, March 4, 2011

Dominic Golab has only one boxer to thank for his involvement in Bengal Bouts: Rocky Balboa. The fictional star motivated the Birmingham, Mich., native to give boxing a try, especially since he would no longer be involved in varsity-level athletics.

“I saw boxing as a great way to stay in shape and have that competitive spirit,” said Golab, a senior captain.

Golab has done much more than compete in his four years with Bengal Bouts. After making it to the finals last year, Golab returns again this year, this time against undefeated three-time champion Bernardo Garcia in the 176-pound weight class.

“I’m not intimidated by him [and his accomplishments],” Golab said. “Winning is a plus for me and I’m going into the fight relaxed and whatever happens, happens.”

Golab’s perspective over the four years has changed from a somewhat selfish, win-hungry freshman to a more team-oriented senior captain. Last year, Golab — nicknamed the “Warsaw Warhammer” — faced current captain Mike Doran in the final bout and lost by split decision. While disappointed, Golab had bigger things to look forward to.

Over the summer, Golab, along with Doran, traveled to Bangladesh to help with the mission Bengal Bouts supports — the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh, which provide health care and education in an attempt to battle poverty.

“It was probably one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Golab said. “I’ve learned so much, not only about myself but also about the world and boxing.”

Golab gained a new admiration for the Holy Cross brothers, sisters and fathers who work tirelessly to provide for the impoverished in Bangladesh. They only turn away people because they have to, but never because they want to, Golab explained.

“I learned how much I take for granted here at home,” Golab said. “Our struggles here are that we have a test the next day while they’re struggling to find their next meal.”

Golab, who calls former opponent Doran one of his good friends, relates Bengals Bouts to a brotherhood. By training for four or five months with 200 teammates, friendships are forged, Golab noted.

Boxing is, by its nature, an individual sport — yet Bengal Bouts does have captains. As a captain, Golab works with the new novice boxers, mainly to improve conditioning but also to teach boxing techniques. Along the way, he tries to impart the respect that is pervasive throughout Bengal Bouts.

“It’s not about the individual,” Golab said. “It’s about the team and people a world away that need help.”

Golab enjoys working with other boxers and pushing them to get their best. A co-president as well, Golab, along with fellow co-president Bobby Powers, makes sure the tournament runs smoothly and keeps the Bouts organized.

“If you had told me as a freshman that I would be in this position, I would have told you ‘You’re crazy,'” Golab said. “It’s probably the most rewarding experience I’ve had.”

During his first two years at Notre Dame, Bengal Bouts practice was the only things that got Golab through the daily grind. Although still a beginner at the time, he always looked forward to practice later in the day, even if it meant a few attention lapses in class.

“To me, it’s a little more important than paying attention to that lecture,” Golab said. “School is important but I feel that I learn so much more in the ring.”

For his finals bout last year, Golab’s parents visited to see his fight. Golab’s mom was unable to even watch the match, handing the videotaping duties over to a friend.

“My freshman year, I would tell them that I won and my mom would say ‘Did you really have to win? Now we have to go through another match,'” Golab said. “But they realize this is something I love to do and it makes me a better person, so they’re all for it.”

Golab also credited his friends and their support for his heavy involvement in Bengal Bouts.

“I just want to thank my friends, especially those that have been here since freshman year for supporting me,” Golab said. “They’ve been there for me, win or lose, the entire way.”

For Golab, that entire way has included a finals appearance, a trip to Bangladesh and maybe a career-capping championship win on Friday night.