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irish insider

Undefeated career takes a back seat to mission for Alcantara

| Friday, March 3, 2017

For Alex Alcantara, vice president of the men’s boxing club and a senior captain from Wheaton, Illinois, Bengal Bouts means much more to him than his individual story and accolades.

The motto of the Bouts, “Strong bodies fight, that weak bodies may be nourished” resonates strongly with Alcantara, who was one of four Notre Dame boxers selected to travel to Bangladesh in the summer of 2015 to strengthen relations with the club’s beneficiaries.

Alumni senior and Bengal Bouts captain Alex Alcantara lands a left jab to his opponent, Keough sophomore Simon Padanilam, during a preliminary round bout Feb. 14 at the Joyce Center Fieldhouse. Katelyn Valley | The Observer

Alumni senior and Bengal Bouts captain Alex Alcantara lands a left jab to his opponent, Keough sophomore Simon Padanilam, during a preliminary round bout Feb. 14 at the Joyce Center Fieldhouse.

This is the 87th year of the Bengal Bouts tournament, but its purpose of raising funds for the Holy Cross Mission in Bangladesh remains the same as it did in 1931 — a purpose Alcantara experienced firsthand while visiting the country. It is experience he now considers the most important thing he can contribute to the club.

“[Being a captain for a second time] is definitely really important, but I don’t think I really care about the status of being captain as much as being looked up to in the club as somebody who not only understands the mission, but has actually gone to Bangladesh and seen where the money has gone,” Alcantara said. “I think I’m a pretty good resource to the club for not only training our novices out there, but for also answering any questions about fundraising and about our mission.

“ … Traveling to Bangladesh with Chip [Blood], Garrett [Schmelling], and Chris [Dethlefs] was the highlight of my Bengal Bouts career.”

Now a role model for younger boxers, Alcantara mentioned his role models — the people who instilled in him the traits and skills necessary to be a good boxer.

“My parents are definitely my number one role models,” Alcantara said. “They’ve always pushed me to do what I love no matter what. My first boxing coach in Chicago introduced me to the sport — he literally showed me the ropes and steered me in the right direction.

“All the captains, coaches and everybody who makes the wheels turn in this club are also role models. Coach Matt [Gelchion] has always been there for me since day one, so he’s definitely somebody that has pushed me and made me better. I can definitely say that I wouldn’t be here without him.”

Friday’s championship in the 146-pound division will be the last fight of Alcantara’s illustrious career in the Bengal Bouts ring. The senior, originally from Alumni, is a two-time defending champion and has won every one of his 10 career fights. He highlighted the strategy that he has continued to craft and improve upon throughout his career with the help of his coaches.

“[My style is] controlled aggression,” Alcantara said. “I’m not somebody who likes to sit in the ring and jab away at people — I like to go [inside] and work the body as ruthlessly as possible, while working in as many hooks as possible. It’s a little more brutal than what you’ll see with other people, but it’s something with my short reach and stature that I’ve learned to capitalize on.”

Although Alcantara’s personal accomplishments are substantial, he continues to stress that his athletic achievements are no longer his central focus — because he has seen and lived with who and what the boxers of the Bengal Bouts are fighting for — and he is grateful that he is able to be so involved in a program with a purpose this special.

“[I joined Bengal Bouts because] I did three sports in high school, and so there was a big drop-off from doing that in high school to nothing in college,” Alcantara said. “I wanted to find something that I could be competitive in athletically, but then it grew into me appreciating the mission and growing within the club.

“ … I don’t think I’m as concerned with records or anything like that as much as putting on a good show for everybody that comes out and training as hard as possible for the people in Bangladesh that we support. The club is so much more than boxing and I got to experience that firsthand. It was an awesome, awesome journey for the two months that we had in Bangladesh, and I wouldn’t give it back for anything in the world.”

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