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Bengal Bouts: Prelims kick off 83rd Bouts

Isaac Lorton | Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In training they solidified their bonds of camaraderie, but in the ring those bonds will no longer matter – at least for 10 minutes.

This is what makes the Bengal Bouts, which kicks off its 83rd year tonight with the preliminary rounds, so unique.

More than 400 men of different backgrounds went through grueling training together beginning in October, and 180 will compete in front of the Notre Dame community and raise money for the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh.

Last year the Irish Men’s Boxing Program sold more than 3,000 tickets to the Bouts and raised $150,000 for the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh. The money is then divided between 13 different parishes, which use the money for whatever they most need.

“Our dual mission of boxing and fundraising for the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh makes [Bengal Bouts] unique,” senior captain and vice president Jack Lally said. “Other boxing programs are 100 percent about the boxing and 100 percent about getting kids ready to fight. That’s part of what we do, but the other part of what we do is charity. That’s the reason we exist, really.”

Training as a group adds to the uniqueness of Bengal Bouts, Lally said.

“We train together as a team whereas a lot of other boxing venues don’t do that,” Lally said. “Boxing is an individual sport in a lot of people’s minds. They think that you compete one-on-one, so you should train by yourself and prepare yourself however you see fit. But we do a lot of team workouts and a lot of events with the team as a group.

“[The team aspect] is something that other boxing programs don’t have.”

For training, a fighter is required to attend four practices a week, but many make it to five or six. And the training is no run around the lakes, law student and four-year Bengal Bout veteran Brian Salvi said.

“It’s without question the most physically-demanding sport you could ever do,” Salvi said. “It saps everything out of you.”

Salvi said Bengal Bouts is special to Notre Dame and captivates the community.

“I think it has to do with the nature of the sport,” he said. “Boxing takes a tremendous amount of courage to do, because when you step into the ring, you have hundreds of people watching you go one-on-one with someone, so all the failure and success is on one person. But more than that, the nature of the sport is so basic.

“When you really break it down, it’s two guys getting into a ring fighting each other. It makes you vulnerable and puts you out on the line. One guy’s got to win and won has to lose, but through it all, everyone is rooting for each other and that’s pretty special.”

Bengal Bouts also attracts Notre Dame varsity athletes, from former Leprechaun and law student Dan Collins to Irish junior running back Tyler Plantz.

Collins said being the Leprechaun and Bengal Bouts are two very different but also meaningful experiences.

“Being the face of the Irish in front of the student section is something incredible to experience and it’s hard to come close to,” Collins said. “But all of the grueling training that goes into boxing, and then to see it pay off in the fights, well that’s a really great experience too.”

Plantz said Bengal Bouts allows Notre Dame students to let frustration out.

“Its such a cool event,” Plantz said. “Here it’s all about academics, trying to beat everyone in the classroom and then at Bengal Bouts, you can take out some aggression built up from the day and it’s great that it’s going towards a good cause.”

To begin the preliminaries with a bang, a marquee matchup to watch tonight is law student Gage O’Connell – who trained as an MMA fighter in Thailand between graduating from the University of Pennsylvania and attending Notre Dame – against junior Connor Noda, who was a karate world champion in high school.

“I think it will be a great fight,” O’Connell said. “We’ve sparred before, and he’s a good athlete. A big advantage for him is that he’s taller and has more reach. He’s going to be keeping me outside and I am trying to get inside. It’s going to be good.”

Preliminary rounds begin tonight at 6 p.m. in the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center field house, and those who advance will fight in the quarterfinals and semifinals in upcoming weeks, with the opportunity to fight in Purcell Pavilion for the finals.

Contact Isaac Lorton at ilorton@nd.edu