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Bengal Bouts: Ring the bell

Samantha Zuba | Wednesday, February 20, 2013

They practice for four grueling months to earn just a few minutes in the ring. The boxers who will fight Wednesday in the Bengal Bouts quarterfinals have one chance to win and stay in the tournament. Winning is thrilling, but losing after all that work can be a terrible disappointment. Bengal Bouts’ service mission and close teamwork during training helps lessen the blow.

The service element drives Bengal Bouts. Team activities revolve around understanding the meaning of fighting in Bengal Bouts and include a screening of a documentary detailing the impact of the money raised for Holy Cross missions in Bangladesh. Senior captain Jeff Ulrich emphasized that the boxers must remember this at every stage in the tournament.

“This is a huge part of what Notre Dame stands for in two specific ways,” Ulrich said. “One, because of how longstanding a tradition Bengal Bouts is. It has been close to 100 years of boxing at Notre Dame and 83 of Bengal Bouts. Thousands and thousands of Notre Dame students have participated and watched over the years. Second, because of the worldwide family and service aspect.”

The money the event raises goes a long way. Between $2 and $4 could buy a family in Bangladesh a chicken. Approximately $4 buys a nice shirt, while $9 gets a good pair of dress shoes. And $15 pays for one month at a hostel so a student can attend a mission school. The captains make sure that the boxers remember this while they train.

“It’s a huge focus throughout the season,” Ulrich said. “Once a week we have an event and someone comes in to talk about Bangladesh. …We have four boxers going there this summer.”

Bengal Bouts is also unique in that it is a team tournament. All the boxers train together, and many will exchange hugs as teammates after fighting a bout as opponents. Enjoying the tournament and appreciating the work of fellow boxers matters more than a win or loss, Ulrich said, and he expects to see these qualities in each quarterfinal fight.

“For me, it’s about enjoyment, really being there for every hour and every minute of the tournament, not just showing up for your fight,” Ulrich said. “We’re an anomaly in the world of boxing because it’s a team tournament.”

Two matchups to watch in the quarterfinals will be junior Mike Falvey versus law student and former Leprechaun Dan Collins in the 138-pound division and freshman Eamon McOsker versus senior Matt Enzweiler in the 194-pound division. Other boxers to watch throughout the tournament include MMA-trained law student Gage O’Connell, junior returning heavyweight champion and captain Dan Yi, undefeated law student Brian Salvi and senior three-time champion and captain Jack Lally. Lally is seeking his 4th title and varsity monogram status.

Ulrich hopes that they and all the other boxers will leave everything they have in the ring. To make the training worth it, they will have to fight their hardest. And some may need to lean on a teammate.

“When it comes down to actual boxing, you know the pain of doing 100 burpees, sprints across Stepan Field, 1,000 pushups,” Ulrich said. “But it’s nothing compared to an actual boxing match. All the matches, the guys hug after the match. Part of it is working with the guy for so long, and part of it is ‘Man, I can’t stand up. I left it all in the ring,’ and needing to hold on to the other guy.”

Quarterfinals begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse.

Contact Samantha Zuba at szuba@nd.edu