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Bengal Bouts: Family tradition keeps Desplinter working hard in ring

Douglas Farmer | Friday, February 27, 2009

Most 10-year-old boys dream of growing up to be firemen, astronauts, or the next LeBron. Most 10-year-olds look up to their older brothers.

When senior captain Brian Desplinter was 10, he certainly looked up to his older brothers, and so, he dreamed of the Bengal Bouts.

Desplinter’s oldest brother, Tom, graduated from Notre Dame in 2002. Tom participated in the Bengal Bouts his sophomore year, and rubbed off on his younger brothers.

“I learned boxing by holding the bag for him,” Desplinter said.

Soon after, middle brother Mark, Notre Dame ’05, joined Bengal Bouts, winning three titles and ending his career as a senior captain. With the three sons of the family all involved in the Bengal Bouts, the event has become a family affair.

“The Bouts are very important to us. It’s what we do,” Desplinter said. “My oldest brother just started his sophomore year. I don’t know where it came from.

“I think it is what brings anybody else to the Bengal Bouts. It is the combination of faith and courage, in an unlikely chance to show faith and courage. You come to Notre Dame to study, and then you get a chance to show yourself in a way you never really would, a way to test yourself.”

Those who’ve been through Bengal Bouts can understand what Desplinter means.

“You can just tell the change that comes over somebody when they have been through the experience,” Desplinter said. “There is a kind of quiet confidence that you carry around with you afterwards, and I can see that in my brothers very clearly.”

But Desplinter has had his share of struggles to get to this point. He boxed his freshman year, losing in the quarterfinals to the defending champion. After suffering an injury several days before the Bouts started his sophomore year, Desplinter could not fight, and he spent the spring semester of his junior year abroad.

Appropriately enough, Desplinter’s favorite moment within the Bengal Bouts program traces back to his very first day, and to the stories he heard from his older brothers.

“I had been hearing about the Bengal Bouts practices my whole life, and hearing about how they are the most difficult things, impossible to get through,” Desplinter said. “When the clock hit seven, I knew I had done it, yet I found myself still down there hitting the bag.”

And the feeling at the end of a complete practice reminds Desplinter of why he joined and persevered through Bengal Bouts.

“The reason I stuck with Bengal Bouts was not because I wanted to win and not because I needed to look up to my brothers. It was because I didn’t think I could do it, and I needed to prove to myself that I could,” Desplinter said. “I wanted to be the example to others that they could do similar things.

“No one thought that I could do this, and myself most of all, but I really thought that if I could make it through one practice, make it through the fights, people who have challenges much greater than I will ever have would look at me and say, ‘Well if he could do it, I could do it.'”

This honorable inspiration does trace back, though, to Brian Desplinter’s first sources of knowledge of the Bengal Bouts: his brothers.

“I owe whatever I accomplish to the example they set.”

He added: “The Bouts are very important to us. It’s what we do.”