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Ulrich fights for people of Bangladesh and family

Peter Steiner | Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Going into this tournament, Bengal Bouts already had meaning for junior captain Jeff Ulrich. As one of the few boxers that actually traveled to Bangladesh and interacted directly with the people Bengal Bouts supports, Ulrich knew exactly whom he was fighting for.

But a phone call the day of the quarterfinals added even greater significance to this year’s tournament. Ulrich now had a second motivation, another person to fight for.

“My grandpa died on Wednesday, the morning of the quarterfinals,” Ulrich said. “That [was] a huge motivation for me fighting this year. I [was fighting] for him and for our family.”

Growing up with four younger brothers and sisters, family has always been an essential component of Ulrich’s life. Then three years ago, when he came to Notre Dame from New Jersey as a freshman, Ulrich developed a new family, part of which includes his Bengal Bouts teammates. Clearly demonstrating the importance of family for the junior, many of Ulrich’s best memories at Notre Dame are the moments when these two lives intersect.

“My favorite times are when my family comes and visits,” Ulrich said. “Junior Parents Weekend was definitely one of my favorite weekends. And then there was a football weekend sophomore year when about 18 people in my family came and we all had post-game Mass and then post-game dinner together at North Dining Hall. New Jersey is not the farthest people come to school, but I’m still well enough removed from my family for it to be kind of a separate life so I like when those two worlds get to come together. 

“When my New Jersey family gets to join my Notre Dame family and meet each other and spend time together, that’s my favorite.”

From New Jersey to Indiana, Ulrich’s circle has undoubtedly expanded over the past three years. But last summer his circle expanded even further, this time to Southeast Asia.

“I loved my time in Bangladesh,” Ulrich said. “I was there for two months … We were mostly teaching English, but also we traveled around to 45 villages. We had Mass every day with the Holy Cross priests who were over at the missions there and we lived with the priests. It was great.”

After serving the Bengali people and understanding the impact of Bengal Bouts on the area, Ulrich brought back his experience back to Notre Dame in a way that continued to serve the mission in Bangladesh. One of Ulrich’s main responsibilities as a captain this year was marketing and advertising for Bengal Bouts.

“The captains thought it would be valuable to have me on the team helping out and being able to share some of that experience, especially because they put me in charge of marketing,” Ulrich said. “I had to go out and have a hundred meetings with different people. I always get to talk about being in Bangladesh, which is helpful for marketing and advertising.”

Even though Ulrich has been busy fundraising for Bengal Bouts, he has also worked hard preparing for the tournament. With two years of experience under his belt, Ulrich now understands the importance of training with the team.

“Since from appearances, it’s a very individual sport — you are fighting by yourself against one other person — it would seem to some people that it’s all about you,” Ulrich said. “You worked hard, you see your own results. But you learn that even in such a seemingly individual sport, the more you are coaching other people, the more you learn yourself. The more you are working out with other people, the more you are working out yourself, the better you get.”

Ulrich has demonstrated that improvement since his freshman year, when he lost in the preliminary round of the 163 lbs. division. Last year, Ulrich competed in the 157 lbs. division, reaching the semifinals before falling in a close split-decision contest to then-sophomore Paul Hayes. Ulrich moved up a couple weight classes this year, but unfortunately met a similar result, falling in a split-decision contest to junior Jake Joe in the 171 lbs. semifinals.

But despite the loss, Ulrich knows he had one fan cheering hard for him from up above.

“[My grandpa] has never been to one of my boxing matches,” Ulrich said.

“He’s watched videos, but he [got] to watch from heaven this year and I [got] to have an extra fan.”


Contact Peter Steiner at psteiner@nd.edu