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Bengal Bouts: Griffin looks for second title in three years

Chris Khorey | Friday, March 3, 2006

Winning it all in his first tournament is hard to top.

Johnny Griffin, the top-seeded cruiserweight in this year’s bouts, did just that – and considers it the best boxing experience of his life.

“My favorite memory of boxing is the championship fight sophomore year,” he said when he was crowned the champion of the light heavyweight division.

Although Griffin was compting in the Bouts for the first time in 2004 – he participated in practice as a freshman but was unable to fight due to illness, The Observer called him “one of the best natural fighters the Bengal Bouts has seen in years.”

In 2005, Griffin lost in a split decision to Billy Zizic, a powerful graduate student, in one of the closest matches of the tournament.

But this has been a more reflective year. As one of the senior captains in 2006, Griffin has worked not only to polish his own skills, but also to help improve the skills of others.

“It was a lot easier when I was a member instead of a captain,” he said. “They’re looking to you [for a lot of leadership]. … It’s a whole different standpoint.”

The senior philosophy major has worked to balance his own workouts, captain’s duties and schoolwork.

“It takes a lot more time, you help with [younger boxers’] practice and then go back out and practice and still get your practice done,” he said. “[Then] get your homework done after three hours of helping everyone else.”

Griffin said boxing at Notre Dame was unique in how it combined a team aspect with the individual nature of boxing.

“I’d say training [is the most challenging part],” he said. “Boxing is a team sport the way Notre Dame does it. It’s not really a team sport.”

The difference between training for Bengal Bouts and training for another boxing tournament are seen in the workouts the fighters go through.

“It’s not like a regular boxing gym where you have a personal trainer, random guys watching to help you – it’s really focused on yourself,” Griffin said. “That and the fact that you’re training with your opponents all year, that’s one of the most rewarding parts, training with those guys all year long, pushing each other and pushing each other.”

Griffin first got involved with Bengal Bouts during his freshman year, but a bout with mono interrupted his first season.

“That’s what got me into boxing in general – my freshman year, the boxing table at Activities Night,” he said. “I caught mono so I couldn’t do it freshman year, but sophomore year I went out and I just loved it. I like it so much more than team sports because it’s just you, all the responsibility. If you win its all on you, if you lose it’s all on you.”

Griffin, a native of Sacramento, California, plans to attend law school next year. But he will take the training experiences and friendships away from his Bengal Bouts experience. The friendships are unique because a Bengal Bouts boxer will find himself in the ring fighting against his friend.

“In the end you have to go out there and fight each other,” he said.

What happens afterwards?

“He’s your best friend again.”

Only in Bengal Bouts.