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Students prep for 14th annual Baraka Bouts

| Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Every time she puts on her boxing gloves and steps into the pit, senior Rachel Francis said she gets butterflies in her stomach.

A referee raises class of 2016 alumna Maggie Adams’ arm in victory after her bout with senior Isabella Bianco at the 2015 Baraka Bouts.Caroline Genco | The Observer

A referee raises class of 2016 alumna Maggie Adams’ arm in victory after her bout with senior Isabella Bianco at the 2015 Baraka Bouts.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been as nervous as before getting into the ring on fight night,” she said.

Francis is a captain for Notre Dame’s Women’s Boxing Club, which hosts Baraka Bouts — a charity boxing tournament — each fall. Proceeds from the tournament, through the congregation of the Holy Cross, go to support two secondary schools in Uganda.

This year, Francis said the club has more than 300 girls registered.

“A typical day at practice consists of working your tail off next to at least 100 other driven girls in a high intensity workout, and then moving onto technique drills or sparring, which help develop boxing skills,” she said. “While all of this training inevitably leads to personal improvement and — hopefully — a love for boxing, the most beautiful part of Baraka Bouts is that it is fueled by a mission.”

Freshman Katie O’Sullivan said she decided to attend her first boxing practice after hearing about the club from a couple of veterans. And she decided to keep coming back after experiencing the team’s “energy, dedication and enthusiasm” that very first day.

“I think for a lot of people who haven’t actually tried Baraka Bouts, they assume it’s just female boxing. But it’s so much more than that,” she said. “It’s about learning how to push your limits, defend yourself and be a teammate — even when you’re in a literal fight.”

Training consists of hour-long intense boot-camp workouts, O’Sullivan said, often consisting of “prolific amounts of burpees,” technique training and, sometimes, spars in the ring.

Francis recruited her friend, senior MK Andersen, to join the club this year — and Andersen said she’s loved every minute.

“I know it’s hard to get on board with women hitting women, but there’s something to be said about empowering women to be the strongest version of themselves,” Andersen said.

Participating in the club has taught her how to focus and overcome both physical and mental obstacles, Francis said.

“The actual bouts — that is the most intense adrenaline rush I think I’ve ever experienced,” she said. “ … Letting those nerves and adrenaline fuel you in the ring brings out skills and endurance that you would never imagine you had.”

The first round of this year’s tournament is Nov. 10. Tickets can be purchased from boxers or on site.

“Most importantly, it’s about working as hard as you can — not just for yourself, but for a really great cause that benefits for every ounce of effort you put in,” O’Sullivan said.

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About Katie Galioto

Katie, the Observer's current Managing Editor, is a senior majoring in political science, with minors in Business Economics and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She's a former Walsh Hall resident who now lives off campus and hails from Chanhassen, Minnesota. Follow her on Twitter @katiegalioto.

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