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BENGAL BOUTS: Christoforetti reflects on four fighting years

Matt Puglisi | Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Senior captain Jim Christoforetti had already made up his mind.

The younger brother of three-time 160-pound weight class winner John Christoforetti (1995-’97) and proud holder of four martial arts black belts and a Bengal Bouts title of his own, Christoforetti was more than familiar with the annual fund-raising, face-smashing tournament known as Bengal Bouts when he stepped on campus four years ago.

“When I was in fifth grade, my brother came to school here, and he was a three-year champ and president of the club,” Christoforetti said. “I came in as a freshman wanting to do it.”

For the off-campus finance major, the motivation for participating in Bengal Bouts is multifold.

“Foremost, it’s a lot of fun – I really enjoy it,” Christoforetti said. “I can get in shape and do something I love, but it’s also for a really great cause, so it’s kind of a win-win. Plus, I love teaching people to fight, as well.”

While the fighting background is undoubtedly valuable to the former Alumni resident, Christoforetti is quick to point out the difference between martial arts and boxing.

“[Martial arts are] not quite as intense as being out in the ring in Bengal Bouts,” Christoforetti said. “It’s a completely different atmosphere than any other kind of fighting I’ve done before.”

Identifying himself as a counter-fighter, Christoforetti couples impressive natural ability with extensive preparation to leave opponents on the mat and his arm raised high come the end of the fight.

“I’m really patient – I like to feel out [my opponent] and then wait for them to make a mistake or try to force them to make a mistake and then attack it,” he said. “I like to watch the person I’m going to fight to see if there’s a mistake or something I can capitalize on. I attack it from the same viewpoint every time, but I’ll change my specific tactic.”

Thus far, the synergistic strategy has proven quite successful.

After advancing to the second round in each of his first two years, Christoforetti won all four of his fights junior year en route to victory in the 180-pound weight class – the same class he has fought all four years.

After a questionable second-round decision ended his sophomore campaign, however, Christoforetti nearly didn’t return to the Bouts as a junior.

In the end, swallowing the disappointing defeat has turned out to be the most important lesson Christoforetti has learned throughout his Bengal Bouts journey.

“Fighting is a very humbling experience,” Christoforetti said. “It gives your perspective. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you can be hit and get up and keep going – you can persevere.”

The ascent to Bengal Bouts captain senior year has continued to pay dividends both inside and outside the ring.

“Everyday I talk in front of 125 guys, so it’s helped me give speeches in class immeasurably,” Christoforetti said. “As far as technique, it’s helped my personal fighting immensely. We go around and teach people, so I have to know what I’m saying in order to teach it to someone else. I get to see so many people doing things wrong and right and what works and what doesn’t work, and it helps me work out the kinks in my own fighting.”

On March 3, Christoforetti moved a step closer to repeating as 180-pound champion, polishing off Dillon senior Michael Schmied in a unanimous decision.

“Being back in the ring was nothing short of incredible,” Christoforetti said. “My game plan was to counter fight, and I was able to do so. Schmied is a tough fighter, and I had to stay on my toes the whole time, even though I was in control.”

Christoforetti is slated to meet Alumni junior Jeff Golen in the class semifinals Wednesday.

“Jeff is a good fighter,” Christoforetti said. “I’d rather not say how I plan to fight him, but I expect him to be tough.”

While the brutal Bengal Bouts training regimen is no secret – rumors of push-ups, sit-ups and jumping-jacks in the hundreds, lengthy runs and hours of fighting drills quickly make their way across the frozen South Bend landscape – the trim-down diet many of the fighters adopt can be just as staggering.

For Christoforetti, a little advice from Subway’s infamous Jared goes a long way.

“A lot of guys do a lot of different things,” Christoforetti said. “Some do the wrestler-style – it’s really unhealthy and we discourage it. I actually go on the Jared Subway diet. I eat Subway twice a day – it’s the quickest and easiest way to know exactly what I’m eating and maintain that.”

With much of America battling the bulge, Christoforetti doesn’t seem to have much trouble dropping pounds to prepare himself to fight.

“The biggest thing is that if you cut back the amount that you eat and make really easy switches like McDonald’s to Subway, it makes a huge difference because you’re working out every day,” Christoforetti said. “Over the last three years I’ve lost 30 pounds each year from the beginning of January until our weigh-in in February. I basically just concentrate on being in the best shape I can be so I can fight the best.”

Ultimately, it hasn’t been the knockout blows or glory of victory that have helped make Bengal Bouts such an unforgettable experience for Christoforetti, but instead, the lifelong friendships and spirit of companionship that accompanies strapping on the gloves and going to work day in and day out for over two months.

“The thing I like the most about Bengals is definitely the people I’ve met and the people that have become my friends,” Christoforetti said. “Without question, hands down, no doubt about it, it’s been my best experience here at Notre Dame. I have the utmost respect for everybody that goes through the program – the camaraderie is definitely the best part.”

So, looking back at the four years of grit and glory in the squared circle, is there anything Christoforetti would have done differently?

“I would have worked out more over the Christmas holiday,” Christoforetti said with a smile. “It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do and always said I’m going to do.”

If last year’s results are any indication, come the 2005 Bengal Bouts 180-pound weight class Finals, a little extra holiday rest for the 6-foot-3 right-hander won’t hurt a bit.