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Bouts legend Mike Lee inspires Fessler to begin boxing

Vicky Jacobsen | Wednesday, February 29, 2012

If you ever need a suggestion for a good television show, senior Bengal Bouts captain Andrew Fessler is the one to ask.

“I’m telling you, I watch a lot of TV. I mean, I gave up Internet TV for Lent,” Fessler said. “I can’t wait until ‘Mad Men’ comes back. But the best TV show of all time is ‘Arrested Development.’ Without a doubt.”

And if you ever need boxing advice, “Fess the Mess” can help out there as well.

Fessler, who worked with Baraka Bouts in the fall in addition to his captain duties, said one of the highlights of his Bengal Bouts experience was sparring against a novice boxer and watching him improve in the weeks leading up to his first fight.

“I was a lot more experienced than he was, but then I helped him out afterwards, trying to tell him what he was doing wrong and help him improve, and he ended up winning his first fight,” Fessler said. “He improved so much since the beginning of the semester. I thought that was really cool — seeing those kids improving and coming back and still wanting to be a part of the program.”

Before Fessler was a mentor for younger fighters, a Bengal Bouts legend persuaded him to give boxing a try.

“I heard about Bengal Bouts when I was in high school and I came out to visit my older brother,” Fessler said. “He was really good friends with (alumnus) Mike Lee — they lived at a house together when I was a sophomore — but [Lee] convinced me my freshman year.”

While Lee, a professional boxer and three-time Bengal Bouts champion, and his endorsement certainly helped, Fessler said he was also attracted by the prospect of joining a new team.

“I really like the whole camaraderie aspect of it,” Fessler said. “As a former football player, that was definitely something that was appealing to me when I heard people talk about Bengal Bouts.”

Fessler said his family and friends back home were generally supportive of his new hobby.

“A lot of people thought it was cool. They were kind of jealous that they would have had to do club boxing at some of their schools, and a lot of people didn’t want to put that much time into it,” Fessler said. “As for my parents, they weren’t too concerned. I’ve always done contact sports — I wrestled, I played football, and they were like, ‘You know what, go for it.’ Though my dad doesn’t really like watching my fights.”

Although Fessler enjoyed his new sport, it was not always smooth sailing in the ring.

“In my freshman fight I got paired up against a former champ in the first round,” Fessler said. “I wasn’t a very good boxer back then, so my goal that fight was just not to get knocked out. I accomplished that goal, but I definitely did not win that fight.”

Fessler improved his sophomore year, reaching the second round. Though he did not fight his junior year due to scheduling conflicts, Fessler returned this year with a vengeance.

“Knocking a kid out in the first round this year — that was pretty cool,” Fessler said of his first round victory over freshman Pat Gallagher.

But Fessler’s season ended in the quarterfinals when he lost to sophomore Joel “Hashtag” Hlavaty by unanimous decision.

“I definitely didn’t fight my best. I gave it my all, but my head wasn’t in it and I couldn’t get comfortable in the ring,” Fessler said.

Fessler said although he will appreciate the free time he has now that he is no longer practicing and competing, it was a disappointing way to end something that was such a large part of his life.

“It really stinks losing, but there’s also a sense of relief when you’re done, because of all this work and time you’ve been spending,” Fessler said. “You obviously want to see it through to the end, so it’s bittersweet in the sense that you’re free to go on about your life again, but without so much commitment.

“But it stinks losing, and that was the last time that I’m going to be able to compete, so it was definitely more bitter than sweet.”

The accounting major will return to Notre Dame next year for the MSA program. Though Fessler has another year of eligibility left, he has not decided if he is going to use it.

“I’ve thought about it because I have another year of eligibility, but I don’t know. We’ll see how the workload is,” he said. “It’s half a semester, and as much as it’s worth it, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to go through that again. But we’ll see.”

 

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu