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Ortenzio serves as co-president in his final Bouts

Mike Monaco | Wednesday, February 29, 2012

For a right-handed fighter like senior co-president Kevin Ortenzio, the jab — the fundamental punch in the sport of boxing — is thrown with the left hand. Thus, it would be seemingly impossible to fight without a left arm.

For Ortenzio, this reality hits close to home, as his boxing career was almost brought to a screeching halt before it even started.

As a high school freshman, Ortenzio was hospitalized with a bacterial infection known as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The bacteria cause something similar to a staph infection but, as the name suggests, are resistant to many commonly-used antibiotics. In Ortenzio’s case, things got so bad that he was days away from having his arm amputated.

Ortenzio, an avid high school wrestler, eventually survived the perilous situation and used it as a learning experience.

“After I recovered, I used what I learned from [the experience] to take that move forward and keep going on with life,” Ortenzio said. “And that’s what I did with my wrestling season and with my schoolwork.”

Now seven years removed from the scare, Ortenzio is in full control of his left arm every time he unleashes a quick jab. However, that hasn’t stopped him from realizing just how blessed he is, Ortenzio said.

“God has blessed me with good health up to this point and I thank him each day for the doctors that were there seven years ago,” Ortenzio said. “[I] feel so blessed and now I try to take advantage of it and make the most of it because you never know when the opportunities will go away. You never know when you could lose an arm or be sick or very ill.”

Ortenzio has certainly made the most of his opportunities through his four years of participating in Bengal Bouts.

As a freshman, Ortenzio won his preliminary fight before getting eliminated in the quarterfinals by one of the then-senior captains. During his sophomore campaign Ortenzio made it all the way to the finals before losing by split decision to then-senior Kieran Bulger. Last year as a junior captain, Ortenzio took the next step and won the 148-pound division championship.

Ortenzio is hoping to defend his title this year and got the ball rolling in the quarterfinals with a victory over junior Alex Calderon. Despite the unanimous decision, Ortenzio said he saw some room for improvement in the fight.

“That fight went very well but I still have a few things to work on,” Ortenzio said. “[Calderon] put in all three rounds against me. I was able to stick it to him in the end but we both had fun and he landed a couple good blows at me. So it’s something I need to work on for [the semifinals].”

In addition to the boxing side of things, Ortenzio has become more involved with the service aspect of the club both as a junior captain and a co-president. The native of Siegfried Hall and Camp Hill, Penn., had the opportunity to travel to Bangladesh last summer and see firsthand where the Bengal Bouts proceeds were going. Ortenzio said the experience, organized through the International Summer Service Learning Program, has changed his outlook on the boxing club.

“Through that experience I knew my mission for being part of this club,” Ortenzio said. “My sole intent of going to practice and working out with the guys and doing the whole fundraising aspect has really changed. It used to be something really competitive — boxing one-on-one you think of it as being the whole intense thing — which it still is, but it’s a lot different perspective now.”

That perspective includes the realization that he is in a tremendous position to provide charitable service to those in need, Ortenzio said.

“Being so blessed here — not only health-wise, but also financially and being from a great nation like the United States and with a great family and everything — the first thing I want to do is give back,” Ortenzio said. “Not only that, but I can discover what others are going through and just realize that my life here is not the only life.”

During his time in Bangladesh, Ortenzio realized the connection between boxing in South Bend and helping others in Bangladesh, he said.

“It’s through the level of training and the commitment you make to this program and the time you commit which is, spiritually speaking, the whole suffering aspect,” Ortenzio said. “That sort of translates well for me as I apply it to the Bangladesh setting. I witnessed all those people and even though they’re suffering, they’re suffering all together and they’re happy doing it. They appreciate the small things which is the same thing here — you appreciate the small things like ‘I landed a pretty good jab today.'”

Fortunately, Ortenzio still has his left arm for all those jabs.

Ortenzio will face sophomore Ben Eichler in the finals Saturday.


Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu