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Baraka Bouts looks to raise money for Holy Cross missions

| Monday, November 6, 2017

Baraka Bouts, the annual women’s boxing tournament hosted by the Notre Dame Women’s Boxing Club, is slated to begin this evening at the Dahnke Ballroom of the new Duncan Student Center.

Claire Kelsey

Two boxers engage in competition at the 2016 Baraka Bouts tournament, which raised $62,000 for Holy Cross Missions. This year’s tournament has already surpassed that total, having earned $90,000.

Now in its 15th year, Baraka Bouts will feature 120 amateur fighters over the course of three days to raise money for the Holy Cross Missions in East Africa, third-year law student and vice president of Women’s Boxing Club Ashley Berding said. So far, the club has raised $90,000, surpassing last year’s total of $62,000, and all proceeds will be used to build a new dormitory for a secondary school in Uganda, she said.

The tournament seeks to build camaraderie through boxing and charity, Berding said.

“The camaraderie and sportsmanship of everybody there creates a very unique and all-encompassing experience,” she said. “It’s not just about you. It’s also about your teammates and the mission.”

Berding said boxing gives participants the opportunity to gain confidence both in and out of the ring.

“It’s so rewarding to see someone come in who says, ‘I can’t do this. I don’t think I can do this,’ and then by the end of the season they’re confident,” she said. “Seeing them build that confidence is something that, especially as woman, is hard to gain. Being able to get over that mental hurdle is something they can take to other aspects of their life that have nothing to do with boxing.”

Club sports program coordinator Nathan Walker said he observes development and improvement in participants.

“Seeing the growth and maturity over the course of a season and career, the self-confidence and personal drive that they have — those are experiences, and those are intangible things that they will be able to take with them beyond boxing,” Walker said.

The amateur atmosphere of Baraka Bouts creates a friendly and encouraging atmosphere in a sport infamous for its individualism, senior and captain Joy Choe said.

“We all start from the same point,” Choe said. “At first, you’re very scared — ‘I’m going to go into a ring and we’re going to start hitting each other.’ It’s scary, but it’s also very exciting.”

The supportive environment propels participants to success, Choe said.

“When we’re doing our workouts, we’re very encouraging of each other,” Choe said. “As your confidence grows, so does your confidence and trust in your partner. You know you can handle it, and you know your opponent can handle it.”

Normally held at the fieldhouse in the Joyce Center, the Bouts had to be moved due to construction, Berding said. The new location of the Bouts is much smaller, but the size of the Dahnke Ballroom will add to the excitement of the fights, she said.

“When the Duncan Center was put onto the table, we were really excited,” Berding said. “Everything is going to be set up a little bit different. It might be a little more intimate feeling because the fieldhouse is so huge. It’s going to be a very exciting feel.”

Berding said participating in the tournament gives her an indescribable rush, though she will not be doing so this year.

“It is an outstanding experience,” she said. “There is nothing quite like being under the lights in front of a bunch of you family, friends and teammates. We do a lot to prepare people, but the excitement and the and the anxiety is just a whole new feeling. It is very, very rewarding.”

The quarterfinals of Baraka Bouts begin Monday at 6 p.m. Tickets are available at the door or from any boxer and provide admission to all three rounds of the tournament.

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