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VP Bortolotti uses martial arts training to his advantage

Matthew DeFranks | Wednesday, February 29, 2012

You might think it is the months of training. You might think it is the bloody noses and black eyes. You might even think it is the ordeal of making weight.

But according to senior captain and club vice president Nick Bortolotti, the hardest thing about Bengal Bouts is the long wait before the fight.

“You get all wrapped up and taped up and ready to go,” he said. “There’s usually about 15 or 20 minutes until you step in the ring and it’s the worst part.”

During the wait, the senior finance major said he tries to keep his head clear and stay focused on his opponent. The approach has worked well for Bortolotti thus far, earning him a spot in Saturday night’s finals.

The Elmhurst, Ill. native was a martial arts enthusiast in high school, claiming a black belt in Hapkido, the Korean martial art of self-defense. Bortolotti said the skills he learned in Hapkido have transferred over to the boxing ring.

“It definitely helped out just having the general motions and being able to know how to throw a punch,” he said. “There were still plenty of things I had to learn about some of the more technical aspects of boxing and the defense.”

Bortolotti said his experience with martial arts factored into his decision to become involved with Bengal Bouts.

“Boxing was still a martial arts type of sport, but it also had the whole social mission and it was a good way to get back in shape,” Bortolotti said.

While some boxers would rather brawl than box, Bortolotti said he prefers a more technical approach in the ring.

“I’m a pretty technical boxer,” he said. “I don’t like to stand there and brawl. I like to put on a good boxing match, to the delight of some fans and the disgust of others. Some people are just there to see a gladiator match.”

Bortolotti, who is also a Sorin College Resident Assistant, said his style predicated on quickness and defense can easily frustrate an opponent.

“I like to move around a lot,” he said. “I like to slip punches, not get hit. It’s really tough on someone if they’re throwing a bunch of combos and they’re landing maybe one out of every five or six punches.”

Bortolotti did not compete in the tournament a year ago because he was studying abroad in London during the spring semester.

“It was a tough decision to make, but four Notre Dame football seasons while I was a student was pretty important so I sacrificed a year of Bengal Bouts,” he said.

In his first two years of fighting, Bortolotti advanced as far as the semifinals during his sophomore year before losing. During his experience with the boxing club, he said he has learned to respect his opponents.

“I definitely learned to respect every other fighter for who they are,” Bortolotti said. “You really have to respect every guy out here in this program and be wary of their abilities. [You] need to go into the ring with a healthy dose of fear instead of walking around like you’re invincible.”

Bortolotti described each fight as a terrifying challenge during which you learn what you’re made of.

“You’re just going in there, putting yourself up against another guy and squaring off in one of the most barbaric ways,” he said. “That’s always been a scary thing.”

Despite missing a year of the tournament, Bortolotti was named the vice president and a captain for this year’s Bengal Bouts. In this role, Bortolotti has helped out with the women’s annual Baraka Bouts, run practices and taught different boxing techniques.

In addition to the physical aspect of the job, he has also sent letters to Bengal Bouts alumni asking for donations, set dates for the tournament, drawn up weigh-in procedures and designed posters and advertising campaigns.

After Notre Dame, Bortolotti said he would like to work with people as a financial analyst or a manager.

“It’s been a great experience to not only come here for a great education, but also the social atmosphere and the dorm culture,” Bortolotti said. “I’ve learned more outside the classroom than inside. It’s a place to come where you can really grow up and learn about yourself.”

Bortolotti will face sophomore Will Peterson in the finals.


Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu