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Women’s ‘Bouts’ benefits charity

Chris Masoud | Monday, November 10, 2008

After two grueling months of training and preparation, the lady Irish squared off in the ring Friday night in the annual Baraka Bouts boxing competition.

Senior captain Lauren Cummings believes this year’s event will be setting precedents for years to come.

“We had more girls, more fundraising and more passion than ever,” Cummings said. “It’s a testament to the success of the program.”

Baraka Bouts, the female version of Bengal Bouts, raises money annually for the Holy Cross Educational Missions in East Africa, she said. Last year, over $9,000 in proceeds from the competition were used to build a boys’ dormitory in Jinja, Uganda, said Cummings. The year before, $4,500 was raised to build a girl’s dormitory, she said.

Baraka Bouts derives its name from the Swahili word for “blessing,” a constant reminder of the program’s mission for the lady boxers, Cummings said.

“Our motivation is really hard to put into words,” boxer Kia Johnson said. “It’s so much more than just personal satisfaction, it’s a responsibility.”

The 60 competitors began a punishing workout routine in September, and have been training for three hours a day, six days a week since, junior captain Kristin Burke said.

“During a typical routine we alternate between jumping jacks, sit-ups, and pushups for the first hour,” Burke said. “The second hour we work on the fundamentals of boxing and the third hour we spar.”

Baraka Bouts has a special meaning for Burke, whose father was a three-time Bengal Bouts champion back in the 1970s.

“I knew I had to continue the boxing legacy when I came to ND,” she said. “Boxing was the first sport I really loved.”

The competitors have also formed a unique bond with the men of Bengal Bouts during training sessions. Both groups train in the basement of the Joyce Center and work to help each other improve.

“It’s really a symbiotic relationship,” Johnson said. “We feed off each other’s knowledge and skills.”

Regardless of how they did after the final bell rang Friday, the boxers have gained invaluable life skills from their experiences in Baraka Bouts.

“I joined the program as a freshman because I was looking for a way to work out and meet new people,” Cummings said. “I never thought I’d actually fall in love with boxing.”

Strapping on the gloves for the last time this Friday, senior captain K.C. Hunt owes a lot to the women’s boxing club.

“We all find a way of clearing our heads,” Hunt said. “Some people listen to rap, some people enjoy Zen, I like to box.”

Some of the boxers said that after being in the ring, many of life’s little challenges are easier to take on.

“If you freak out in life you can usually get right back up,” Johnson said. “If you freak out in the ring, you find yourself on your back in front of hundreds.”