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Bengal Bouts a Grueling and Entertaining Experience

Observer Scene | Monday, February 25, 2008

At about 4 p.m., I really started to feel it.

It started earlier in the day as a low grumble in my stomach, one that repeated about every 45 minutes, but by the time my last class ended the grumbles were roaring every thirty seconds, and getting noticeably louder.

To take my mind off the fact that I would not be consuming lunch, I went to the Rock and pushed the stomach pains to the back of my mind with a few sets of push-ups and sit-ups.

But around 4 p.m. serious fatigue set in. I began to dose off at my desk, my head started pounding and my parched tongue began to scream for water. I longed for food.

My plight was not unlike that of many other boxers, starving and sweating in an attempt to shed a few pounds before weigh-ins on Tuesday and Wednesday. After months of intense training, involving countless hours of pushing their bodies to the utmost limit and just as many hits to the face, starvation was the last thing any of us wanted to do.

But as a friend casually remarked to me the night before, such starvation can be viewed as personal reminder of the season of Lent. Especially in light of the cause Bengal Bouts represents, a day of starvation is a small price to pay.

However, not everyone has to suffer.

While the roughly 200 boxers train, sweat, punch and starve, they do so willingly so you can watch them beat the tar out of each other. For $10 you can come see many of your friends, classmates and even enemies get socked in the face repeatedly. Campus entertainment does not get much better than this.

When a friend of mine purchased a ticket from me on Saturday she joked that $10 was a great deal to watch me get punched in the face. But this motive is as good as any for coming out and supporting the 78th annual Bengal Bouts. And this year, for tonight’s preliminaries and Thursday’s quarterfinals, there will be two rings set up in the Joyce Center providing simultaneous beatdowns and knockouts.

But there is something more to the sport that, for the boxers, runs deeper than entertainment and the cause they fight for.

A couple weeks back my grandfather mailed me a story about the late Norman Mailer from “Esquire” magazine. The article, written by Chuck Klosterman, called Mailer the “last of a breed” of American writers who cared for the sport of boxing. Klosterman attributed this decline in part to what he deemed as “social evolution that has more to do with technology than with typing of punching.” He states, “Adults are now so insulated by technology (and so protected by modernity) that the possibility of physical consequence for any action is a psychological nonfactor.”

Klosterman’s point, though stated in more vulgar terms, was that boxers are the only people in today’s world who actually get “hit for [messing] up.”

This fear waits in the back of every boxer’s mind. It is the knowledge that a missed punch can mean a jolt to the face. It is the knowledge that a drop of the hand can mean a black eye or a broken nose. It is the knowledge that in front of thousands of screaming friends and classmates you can get knocked out. But it is this knowledge that nearly 200 fighters will carry with them tonight when they fight for pride and for the people of Bangladesh.

Last year the Bouts raised over $80,000 for the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh, and this year it hopes to do the same. So whether your motive is cheering a friend to victory or hoping he gets knocked out, come out and support your fellow students tonight, because as far as entertainment goes, it’s going to be a hell of a good time.