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Baraka Bouts: Boxers to return to JACC for final round

Brian Hartnett | Wednesday, November 9, 2011

After emerging victorious from an intense round of fights Monday, 38 boxers will return to the ring Thursday night to compete in the final round of Baraka Bouts.

The 19 bouts will serve as the first ever finals for Baraka Bouts, which traditionally had been a one-night event. The new tournament format for the bouts debuted Monday night and the first round — 40 fights spread over two rings in the Joyce Center — was a great success, according to Women’s Boxing Club co-president senior Erin Byrne.

“Even with the switch to tournament style, we had a lot of close, definitive bouts that were pretty high-skill level on Monday,” Byrne said.

Among the boxing highlights of the night, Byrne said she noticed the promising trend of many second-year fighters rising up to the level battle-tested captains and veteran fighters, as well as many novices holding their own in their first trip to the ring.

In the ring, experience level did not always trump pure skill level and energy, as several less-experienced fighters knocked off older fighters. Junior Kaitlyn Cole earned perhaps the most improbable victory, beating three-time veteran and senior captain Kat Rodriguez in a split decision.

Monday night, however, was not just marked by success in the boxing ring; it succeeded in drawing many students and generating substantial fundraising for the Holy Cross Missions in Uganda, who receive all profits from the bouts.

“We made a lot in ticket and merchandise sales,” Byrne said. “We had a pretty good turnout, and there was always plenty of activity for the fans to watch, since we had two rings this year.”

With the first round complete, the victorious fighters move on to face an even greater challenge. A daunting opponent awaits them, but the boxers also have to fight the enemy of fatigue, as they box for the second time in four nights.

“I think that some of the challenges for the fighters will be figuring out how to change their training schedules to get ready for another fight and how to push themselves to their utter limits twice in one week,” senior Women’s Boxing Club co-president Jen Coe said. “I think they’ll probably leave the week really tired, but they are really capable and they train so hard that they are definitely in shape to fight multiple times in a week.”

The 19 bouts taking place Thursday night will serve as the conclusion to the Baraka Bouts tournament, but don’t serve the purpose of ultimately conferring a championship to an overall winner. This year the tournament was organized into 20 pods of four fighters, with the two winners in each pod moving on to fight each other. These pods serve an organizational function by working to group fighters by skill level, rather than grouping them by weight class as Bengal Bouts does.

With the tournament organized in that manner, it is no surprise to see Coe mention she expects to see more competitive, high-intensity fights in the finals.

“I expect to see a lot more close calls and split decisions Thursday night,” Coe said. “I think that there will be tons of overall intensity, energy and excitement in the ring.”

Byrne echoed similar sentiments, emphasizing the experience of a first fight earlier in the week would ratchet up the skill level of many of the boxers.

“I think that the skill level will be a lot better because all the nerves from getting in the ring were left out on Monday, so now girls can be a little bit more focused and more technical,” Byrne said. “It should be an exciting round, since there will be several captain showdowns as well as many novices and veterans participating in the round.”

The final round of Baraka Bouts starts at 6 p.m. Thursday at the JACC.

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu