Students prepare for final round of Baraka Bouts
Rachel O'Grady | Wednesday, November 11, 2015
To add some variety to a usual workout or just for a rare adrenaline rush, the Women’s Boxing Club of Notre Dame recommends getting punched in the face.
Each fall, the Women’s Boxing Club hosts Baraka Bouts, a boxing tournament open to all women on campus. The tournament’s final round takes place tonight.
Junior Maeve Donovan, one of the club’s seven captains, said the club serves a dual purpose — teaching the sport of boxing and also serving a philanthropic purpose.
“We’re a club sport which allows women from Notre Dame to be able to learn the sport of boxing while raising money for Lakeview Secondary School in Jinja, Uganda,” Donovan said. “This involves coming to practice at least four times a week for two hours each. … After over a month of practice, we begin our spars during practice, which are essentially coach-regulated practice fights. Then the season culminates in the tournament, two nights of bouts in which each girl fighting must fundraise at least $350 before being eligible.”
Junior captain Casey Gelchion said boxers join for a variety of reasons and with varying levels of experience, but many stay with it through the course of their time at Notre Dame.
“I joined because I was looking for something that would challenge me and help me grow. It’s an extremely demanding and mentally exhausting sport, and it’s taught me a lot about my own physical and mental strength,” Gelchion said.
Gelchion said her family’s ties to the program factored into her decision to stick with the sport.
“My older brother Matt is one of our coaches for Baraka Bouts. Before one of my bouts, he told me that I would not be alone in the ring. He said I couldn’t be alone, because he would be with me through it all. Being able to have my older brother in my corner both literally and figuratively is a blessing I really can’t quite put into words,” Gelchion said.
Beyond her brother, Gelchion relies on the rest of her family as part of her pre-fight traditions.
“My pre-bout traditions are largely impacted by my family. I read a list of quotes that my mom compiled for me before my first ever fight: They motivate me to step into the ring and give each round all that I have. Right before the bout begins, my brother Matt and I do our ‘secret handshake,’ and from there, I know I am ready to go,” Gelchion said.
Junior Maddie McGovern was a two-sport varsity athlete in high school and said was looking for something to keep challenging her in the same capacity that organized sports did before coming to college.
“I went to watch my ‘big sister’ in [Pasquerilla East], Liz Zolper, fight, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever,” McGovern said. “Now boxing season is my favorite part of the year. I love being able to train with a purpose — one that’s even higher than winning on fight night, supporting Lakeview Secondary School.”
McGovern suffered a concussion in an interhall flag football game earlier this fall and is unable to compete in the Bouts this year. Still, she found a way to participate in the tournament.
“My favorite memory actually was from the semifinals on Sunday. One of my best friends, Emmy Popovich, asked me to corner her for her fights. It meant so much to me that I got to have some part in the competition. She won on Sunday, so it’ll be fun to work with her on [today],” McGovern said.
Senior captain Kiley Cox said she joined entirely on a whim when she transferred to Notre Dame but ended up falling in love with the program.
“I figured Baraka Bouts was an incredibly unique experience that I didn’t want to pass up, and then I stayed because I loved the people and the community that Baraka Bouts has created,” Cox said.
Though she is a captain of the boxing club now, she said she still remembers her first ever spar.
“Every time I got hit, I would laugh because I couldn’t believe what happening. One of our coaches, Nate Walker, had to stop the spar on several occasions to try to get me to stop laughing. Boxing for the first time just such a surreal experience,” Cox said.
McGovern said there a number of exciting fights slated for tonight’s final bouts.
“Maeve Donovan versus Joy Choe will hopefully be even more beautiful of a fight than when they sparred each other a few weeks ago. The two are such crisp and calculated fighters. Emmy Popovich versus Ali Gibson will also be another can’t-miss fight,” she said.
Cox also recommended tuning in for the Donovan-Choe bout.
“Maeve and Joy are two of the most skilled boxers to ever participate in Baraka Bouts. Definitely the fight to see this Wednesday,” Cox said.
Regardless of the outcome, Gelchion said she is excited with all the boxers accomplished this year, in addition to the funds raised.
“These boxers have worked tirelessly for months to get to this point, and win or lose, they have accomplished great things. I feel honored to be able to serve them in their corner and help them to give the bout everything they have until the bell rings,” she said.