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Students participate in annual boxing tournament to support Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh

| Thursday, February 15, 2018

For senior Pat Gordon, what started off as an activity to get his mind off things transformed into a passion.

“My mother passed away in high school, and I was upset, looking for an outlet. I walked into a boxing gym and fell in love with it,” Gordon said.

Observer File Photo

A student receives medical attention during a break between rounds in the 2017 Bengal Bouts.

Gordon said one of the things that most attracted him to Notre Dame was that it was one of the only schools with a boxing program. He said as soon as he arrived on campus as a freshman, he knew Bengal Bouts was something he wanted to be a major part of his college experience.

According to its website, Bengal Bouts started as a boxing program organized 88 years ago by Knute Rockne. During its first year, Gordon said, the bouts raised $200, which was sent to Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh as part of an emergency fund. However, he said, the money has grown too big — especially over the past 10 years — to be a mere rainy-day fund and now goes to supporting tribal parishes.

“In Bangladesh, if you’re part of a tribe you’re in the vast minority,” he said. “The kids in the tribal parishes stay in a hostel … and the hostel provides their food, their clothing, their books and it’s about $15 a month for all of that.”

Gordon said these kids’ parents make around $1 a day and can pay about $2 or $3 a month for their children’s education. This is where the money from Bengal Bouts helps, and last year alone the boxing program raised $175,000.

Gordon went to Bangladesh for nine weeks last summer to see for himself the place the money raised from Bengal Bouts benefits. He went to Jalchatra, where he worked with the Garo tribe, lived with two Holy Cross priests and taught English classes.

“I had from grade three up to grade 11, and a night class of adults,” he said. “It was a big variety of students because some of them only knew two or three English words and others were fairly close to fluent.”

Gordon said there were three other Notre Dame students there with Bengal Bouts, and all four of them together would write lesson plans every night for their classes. Prior to the experience, he said, he had no experience teaching English as a second language.

“It was challenging, but it was really rewarding,” Gordon said. “These kids, they don’t have a lot of disposable income, and our last day there we threw this big party — they got us gifts, they bought us shirts we could wear … different types of Bengali clothing.

“We’re supposed to be the ones giving and yet they’re the ones who were giving to us.”

Gordon won Bengal Bouts his sophomore year, was a captain his junior year and won heavyweight division junior year, but he said the best part of his experience with Bengal Bouts was going to Bangladesh.

“I love boxing. I simply adore it — I can’t get enough of it,” he said. “I’m always going to be a proponent of this club and try to help it and progress it in any way that I can.”

When Gordon first started with Bengal Bouts, he did it purely for the boxing, he said. Now, with his experience at Bangladesh and a first look at Holy Cross Missions, he found a deeper reason to supplement his athletic passion.

“I can honestly say it’s the single best thing I’ve done with my life,” Gordon said. “I started boxing to grow myself as a person, now I do it to help others grow. If you lose, it’s important to remember that the real fight is 10,000 miles away in Bangladesh.”

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About Selena Ponio

Selena Ponio is from Dallas, Texas and is currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame. She is the Associate News Editor for The Observer. Selena lives in Breen-Phillips hall and is majoring in International Economics with a concentration in Spanish and is minoring in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy.

Contact Selena