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Senior captain ready for hard work to pay off

Mike Gilloon | Thursday, March 3, 2005

Mike Panzica has been scared only once in a boxing ring. He was a freshman at the time and climbed inside the ropes to face the top-seeded senior in his weight class. Ten seconds, two punches and one dazed look after the second-round fight started, Panzica knew he had a long way to go if he wanted to be a Bengal Bouts champion. Four years later, Panzica is close to reaching his goal. He’s a senior and one of the top seeds in the 155 lb. weight class and has hopes of capturing his first Bengal Bout title when the finals take place on March 19. “A championship would definitely be a great end to these four years of boxing,” Panzica said. “It would pretty much make everything worth all the effort.”The first step on the final leg of his journey begins tonight as he faces Bryan Grissinger in a Bengal Bouts quarterfinal fight beginning at 6 p.m., in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse.Panzica joined the boxing club his freshman year and first heard about the Bengal Bouts from a sister who attended Notre Dame before him. “My older sister would tell me how cool it was to watch the fights,” Panzica, a team captain, said. “Initially I was just looking for a regular workout. But after doing it every day, I got to meet a lot of great guys and a lot of good friends.”After missing the Bouts his sophomore year due to a case of mono, Panzica slugged his way to the finals of the 155 lb. weight class his junior season. Once there, he lost to teammate Nathan Lohmeyer. “Last year, it was a big achievement for me to be in the finals,” the Cleveland native said. “I think I was more in awe of being there.”With the finals defeat in mind, Panzica has trained over three hours per day, six days per week since boxing season started in January. “I usually try to get to practice 45 minutes to one hour early just to work on some individual things,” Panzica said. Spending all that time in the boxing room, Panzica has formed a close bond with many of the 127 club members, but especially with the four other captains.”I definitely admire and respect the other captains for the amount of work they put into boxing,” Panzica said. “It’s a great group of guys and we just keep each other going.” Panzica is a finance major and will be working in the real estate business next year. Though the corporate world can be competitive, it will be tough to match the adrenaline rush he receives from boxing.”It’s a feeling I’ve never had before in any other sporting event,” Panzica says of the Bouts. “Because all eyes are on you.”All proceeds from the Bengal Bouts go to Holy Cross missions, a fact which Panzica is proud of. “What makes the Bengal Bouts so great it is that it is a completely selfless event,” Panzica said. “There’s a hundred-plus kids doing this purely for the fact of raising money for people on the other side of the world. I think it’s unbelievable how unselfish that is.”