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Bengal Bouts: Junior Ortenzio returns from London with renewed focus

Kelsey Manning | Friday, March 4, 2011

Junior captain Kevin Ortenzio joined Bengal Bouts in order to stay active and expand upon his love of wrestling, but over the past three years he has discovered that he is fighting for much more.

The Siegfried resident from Camp Hill, Penn., and three-year veteran to the Bouts explained that he knew he wanted to be a part of the boxing experience at Notre Dame since he first stepped foot on campus.

“I started freshman year, starting with the first practice of the novices which is during the fall,” Ortenzio said. “I came to the first practice because I always knew I wanted to be in the club. I had heard a lot about it and I was really interested.”

As the first in his family to attend Notre Dame, Ortenzio’s decision to join Bengal Bouts had a lot to do with his experience in wrestling.

“I have a history with high school wrestling and I also wrestled for a good portion of my elementary school and middle school life,” he said. “I just felt like if I didn’t play something my winters would seem a little empty.”

Ortenzio’s opponent in the final last year, then senior Kieran Bulger, said of then-sophomore Ortenzio: “I had to take it slow. I figured that since he is such a workhorse in practice he would probably have good endurance.”

A three-year veteran who is known as a hard worker among his peers, Ortenzio attributed much of his training mentality to his wrestling experience.

“[Wrestling has helped] not only in terms of the matches but as far as training goes I really understand my body and what it takes for me to be in shape, so I do that and I prepare myself for every fight like it’s my last,” he said.

Though he did not come out on top in last year’s final, Ortenzio said it was a highlight of his time in boxing and his most memorable fight to date.

“It was a fantastic fight,” he said. “Kieran Bulger was a terrific fighter and with him being a senior and me being a sophomore he was definitely expected to win but I gave him a good run and it ended up being split decision. With the overall experience and how I felt during that fight it didn’t matter one way or the other, win or lose. That was a fantastic fight that I will never forget.”

After losing to a senior captain in the quarterfinals his freshman year and losing to senior Bulger in the finals last year, Ortenzio is working on his third solid run in the tournament. In this year’s final he will face another senior and previous champion in Ryan Slaney. Ortenzio said he was anticipating another great fight.

“He’s done very well so far in this tournament so I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.

For this Bengal Bouts season Ortenzio returned after a fall semester in London with his eye on another championship fight night. Despite not being on campus fall semester, Ortenzio made sure he made time to train.

“I had another individual who’s also in the finals, Greg Bennett, who was abroad with me,” Ortenzio said. “We found a gym in London and were able to go once or twice a week and throw some punches and get a feel for it. That was really helpful, but I think the time I gained the most ground was probably over winter break and especially after New Year’s. That’s when I really started training.”

Since then, Ortenzio said he has put in anywhere from 10-14 hours a week in the gym in preparation for this year’s tournament, but has realized that is no longer just passion for the sport that motivates him, but his family, the camaraderie in the club, and, most importantly, the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh.

“[My family] has been very supportive,” he said. “I’ve been so fortunate that even living in Pennsylvania they’ve been making all my fights.”

With the support of his family and fellow boxers Ortenzio has become particularly dedicated to the true goal of Bengal Bouts — raising money for the Holy Cross Missions, and is even traveling to Bangladesh with ISSLP this summer.

“The reason why I came to Bengal Bouts and the reason I stick with it today are very different,” he said. “A lot of it used to be my wrestling background but I’ve really come to understand what this whole thing is about, not just the boxing but the Missions themselves. At this point, I’ve just kind of told myself that wrestling is a pastime; it’s not why I do this anymore. It’s also the camaraderie that you see here. We’re going out slugging it for six minutes and then afterwards we give each other a big hug — where else do you see that?”

Ortenzio will bring his dedication to the cause along with his boxing experience, strength and endurance to fight night Friday, as he takes on Ryan Slaney in the 148 lb. division championship.