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Yi fights for the sake of competition

By Alex WIlcox | Thursday, February 28, 2013

Boxers love to fight. They love to trade blows with an opponent and salivate at the thought of a knockout. Well, maybe not all of them.

“I’m actually not that big a fan of fighting,” junior captain Daniel Yi said.

This is not what you might expect to hear from a boxer and especially not from a two-time Bengal Bouts champion. But such is the case for Yi.

Yi, a junior accounting major living in Sorin College, is a native of Bakersfield, Calif., where he grew up with his parents and two sisters.

Yi attended the small Garces Memorial High School and played football, soccer and tennis. Despite playing a wide range of sports, Yi said he always loved football. “Our high school had maybe 750 kids total and we would go up against the big schools in our area so we would get blown out by our rivals,” Yi said. “We were always the underdogs, but I had a great time. We never won anything significant, but we were always a competitive force.”

When he arrived on campus as a freshman in 2010, Yi continued his athletic career at the interhall level.

“I heard about the whole interhall football thing and I was psyched about that, so I came here with full intention to play interhall,” he said. “It was great because my freshmen year … we had a pretty awesome team. We went to [Notre Dame Stadium] and beat Dillon, so my first year here we won the whole thing.”

During Yi’s sophomore and junior years, Sorin continued its success on the gridiron and made it back to Notre Dame Stadium both years. While Yi enjoyed being a part of interhall sports, he said he the level of intensity didn’t match his competitive drive.”In the beginning, I was really looking for something to fill the void of [high school] varsity sports,” Yi said. “Interhall sports are super fun, but the level of competiveness just wasn’t there.

“With boxing, the promise of joining the boxing club is that you learn how to box, and you get in really good shape, so it didn’t seem like there was much of a downside.”

For Yi, there hasn’t been anything close to a downside as he has won the tournament in both years he’s participated.

“My freshmen year I won the [198-pound] weight class,” Yi said. “That year, I feel like I put in the most time, so it was great to win. My sophomore year, I was feeling a little heavy, didn’t want to cut weight, so I moved up to the heavyweight division. I viewed it as a really good challenge for me and I was able to win again.”

This year, though, has brought a whole new set of challenges for Yi.

“The potential [to win] is definitely there,” Yi said. “It’s a little different this year. Everyone says junior year is the hardest in terms of course load and they really weren’t kidding.

“I feel like I was in better shape and had better endurance the past two years, but I think my boxing I.Q. has gone up and I’m a little calmer in the ring this year.”

While all boxers know the purpose of the tournament is to raise money for charity, Yi said a trip to Bangladesh this past summer with three fellow boxers really opened his eyes to the effects of the Bengal Bouts mission.

“All the money goes to the Holy Cross mission in Bangladesh and it just goes so far,” Yi said. “You raise $100 and it translates into $1,000 over there, so you’re doing so much. It’s such a great investment. It’s such a great opportunity.”

Yi and fellow boxer and senior captain Pat Bishop spent six weeks teaching English to grade school children and Yi said the trip had a large impact on him.

“The thing I’ll never forget is the people that I met, whether it be my students – I call them my students even though I probably learned more from them than they learned from me – the teachers, the Holy Cross priests. It’s just the relationships,” Yi said. “It’s just crazy to experience a world so completely different, but you come to realize that the kids are basically the same. I think that was the greatest thing that I brought back.”

With the trip to Bangladesh and the experience of two championships in the back of his mind, Yi said he knows he has what it takes to secure his third straight boxing crown in the heavyweight finals.

“I know what I need to do to win, and so it’s just about the execution at this point,” Yi said. “Hopefully my lungs will take me there. Hopefully I don’t get too tired and hopefully I play it smart.”

Contact Alex Wilcox at awilcox1@nd.edu