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Strong bodies fight …

Letters to the Editor | Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I am a junior and a third year boxer in the Notre Dame Boxing Club, otherwise known as the Bengal Bouts. Exactly a week before Monday’s preliminary fights, my nose was broken by a friend and fellow boxer in a sparring match. I knew immediately that because of the injury, I would not be allowed to participate in this year’s Bouts, and doctors eventually confirmed my speculation. I was frustrated and sorely disappointed when I found I would not fight in the tournament, but I quickly accepted my situation, knowing that freak occurrences like this just happen-such is boxing, such is life.

As friends and colleagues who know me as a boxer came to discover I would not be participating in the Bengal Bouts Tournament this year, their majority reaction had been, “That’s such a shame, and after all that training.” Whenever I heard this, it sounded as if all my preparation for a tournament I would not fight in was just a waste of time, that I would have concentrated my efforts in other endeavors had I known that I would not be in this year’s Bouts. This cannot be further from the truth. I am a boxer for many reasons, but one of them is not just so I can be a Bengal Bouts champion.

For one thing, if I had not started boxing my freshman year, I would be a pudgy little lump sitting in front of my computer all day. Another thing is that I don’t fight just for a shot to win. That sort of selfish pride is for freshmen and novices who learn to drop after their first year. I am a member of the Notre Dame Boxing Club because of the friends I have made and the things I can accomplish that extend outside of the ring, outside of Notre Dame.

What most people do not understand about the Bengal Bouts is that it is as much of a team sport that boxing can ever be – we train as a team, we learn as a team. If you really want to excel in Bengal Bouts, you cannot do it alone. You cannot just jump rope in a corner or hit a punching bag for hour and assume you are set. What is most important is communication. You need others to tell you what you are doing wrong, what you’re doing right, and to help you apply what you learn.

That’s precisely why we work together – to help each other. We suffer and grow as a team. This is why you see boxers hug each other after a grueling match, why they can smile and laugh with their opponent even if each fighter is bloody and broken. It is why some boxers cringe at their weight bracket, because they see they might have to fight a friend they have been training with for two or three hours a day for a whole semester.

It is why I can still enjoy watching this tournament despite not being able to fight in it, because I can cheer on these fighters whether I know them or not, and shake their hands backstage, telling them they had a helluva match no matter how they did.

Most important of all, the members of the Notre Dame Boxing Club fight for something far beyond themselves. As many know, all of our proceeds help the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh, money that helps create schools, provide healthcare, build shelters, and other such necessities of life that most of us take for granted. Many people cringe at the idea of being in a fight. They are afraid of being hit, of the pain. But if you ask any boxer, they will tell you that a punch in the face is nothing. It is inevitable, so you learn to take it and move on. And even after all the years of punches to the face and to the body that we take, it is nothing compared to the pain that those in poverty we raise money for feel every day of their lives. For every broken nose and black eye, we know it will be gone soon enough; for those in Bangladesh, their pain does not go away.

When our practices are over and we feel exhausted and bruised and famished, we know that we will soon take a shower and go to the dining hall; for those suffering in poverty, they do not have that comfort. I am not disappointed that I cannot fight this year because I can still contribute to Bengal Bouts’ true purpose by selling tickets, asking for donations and getting the word out.

When you watch the quarterfinals on Thursday night, as well as the later fights, please keep all of this in mind. If you have decided not to see the fights this year, please buy a ticket anyway. If you have already bought a ticket, feel free to pitch in a few extra dollars. This tournament is not a contest for a trophy or pride or glory. It is a fight for survival, a fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. We have a motto in Bengal Bouts that has driven the program for decades and summarizes exactly what we are doing and why. It is a motto that I and hopefully every other boxer will remember for the rest of our lives: Strong bodies fight, that weak bodies may be nourished. I hope everyone on campus and elsewhere take this saying to heart as I have.

Ryan Simmons


Keough Hall

Feb. 27