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Fights start Sunday night

Chris Masoud | Friday, February 13, 2009

Knute Rockne’s legacy at Notre Dame lives on as the 79th annual Bengal Bouts Tournament kicks off this weekend. Sunday night will feature 84 bouts in two rings.

“There is something special about the Bengal Bouts that only the guys who do it can truly appreciate,” senior president Mark Weber said. “The Bengal Bouts is a unique blend of sweat, sacrifice, and solidarity. It’s a rite of passage.”

A tradition first organized in 1920 by Coach Rockne, Bengal Bouts offers students a rare opportunity to box, while teaching them the discipline, courage and mental and physical toughness to compete. More importantly, the men’s boxing club forms a genuine brotherhood among fellow athletes.

“There’s a nice sense of community here, especially when we start sparring,” an unnamed sophomore boxer said. “You get into the ring and beat the hell out of each other and then you come out and shake hands and go work out. It’s a lot of fun.”

Veterans teach rookies, freshman give advice to seniors as each member of the men’s boxing club strives to make others better each day.

But Bengal Bouts is much more than just a community of boxers giving up their time for an annual competition.

Espousing the Notre Dame call to service, Bengal Bouts is the largest single contributor to the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh. Since 1931, the Holy Cross Brothers have established several elementary and secondary schools in the region, while providing extensive outreach programs to the poor.

“Our money is dedicated to funding education in villages in Bangladesh,” Weber said. “We are really trying to form relationships with the people over there and learn from them rather than just sending money.”

Although 4,000 tickets have already been sold, Weber added that the current state of the economy has made it more difficult to raise money this year. Tickets are still available and can be purchased through any boxer or on fight night.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, the restless boxers have anything but kisses and hugs on their minds.

“It’s time for the training to pay off,” freshman fighter Adam Zaabel said. “You spend so long training for something, and it’s almost surreal when you step into the ring. You really put a lot into it when you’ve got this tradition behind you.”

The preliminaries begin this Sunday at 5 p.m. in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse.