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Bengal Bouts: Taking home the trophy

Chris Masoud and Eric Prister | Monday, March 2, 2009

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130 pounds

Joe “David Hassel” Hof def. Michael “The Silver City Slugger” Sayles

Neither fighter was able to take a clear lead after two rounds, but the senior Hof pulled away in the final round to earn the split-decision victory.

“There were a couple of times where I was trying to wrap him up, but he wouldn’t let me get him,” Sayles said. “He just kept throwing a lot of real flurries of body shots.”

Although Sayles was able to evade some of Hof’s jabs and hooks with his quick feet and natural instincts, he couldn’t outmaneuver his left, right, right combo. Taking advantage of his longer arms and greater experience, Hof bloodied Sayles’ nose to open the second round.

Sayles responded in the third with an aggressive approach that caught Hof off guard momentarily, but the senior boxer quickly regained form and went on the offensive. Using a series of uppercuts and hooks, Hof managed to move Sayles around the ring and land a large number of punches to his face.

“It feels great,” Sayles said. “I emptied the tank, so I can’t ask for anything more.”

140 pounds

Kris “El Azteca” Perez def. Eric “A 2nd Reading From the Book of The Prophet” Feduska

Joining an elite group of only nine other boxers in Bengal Bouts history, Perez won his fourth championship in as many years by picking up the unanimous victory over Feduska.

“This fight definitely ranks in the top two,” Perez said. “This one was hard because it was a rematch against Eric; he was the first guy to take me three rounds. He is a great fighter, and he has developed a lot since that fight, in my sophomore year.”

To Feduska’s credit he never backed down, giving Perez a run for his money in all three rounds. The senior Feduska come out strong at the start of the second round, pinning Perez against the ropes and landing some hard jabs before Perez managed to escape.

But Perez dominated the third round, dodging violent uppercuts from Feduska and landing huge hooks to his opponent’s face. Feduska became more defensive as the round carried on, and Perez took advantage with his quick right hand.

“Bengal Bouts is my best experience I have had at Notre Dame,” Perez said.

145 pounds

Bobby Powers def. Mark Weber

The lanky Powers dominated the match from bell to bell, taking the victory after the referee stopped the contest at the end of two rounds.

The lanky Powers took advantage of his greater size and length to land some hard jabs and wide hooks to the face of the veteran Weber. Weber also threw a high number of punches, but was unable to land them with the same frequency as Powers.

“We were both coming at each other so hard that one of us was bound to knock the other one out,” Powers said. “It was just a coin flip that it was me instead of him.”

Powers gave Weber a bloody nose to open the second round and landed a series of hard hooks and jabs with his powerful left. Weber, the president of Bengal Bouts, stuck it out for two tough rounds before the ref was forced to call the match.

“As a senior, I knew it was my last fight, so I just wanted to come in, not worry about it, and just have a great time, leaving it all in the ring,” Weber said. “Going in, I knew I was going up against a really special fighter in Bobby Powers. There are not a lot of sophomores with his athletic ability, and sound technique boxing-wise.”

147 pounds

Patrick “The South Bend Sniper” Kibbe def. Joey “Thor’s Hammer” Leary

South Bend natives and good friends, Kibbe and Leary pummeled each for three hard rounds before an emotional Kibbe emerged in the third as the unanimous victor. Both fighters showed signs of fatigue as the match wore on, but Kibbe managed land more punches in the final minute than Leary.

“We both got tired, and then, I chalk it up to the endurance, and his longer reach,” Leary said.

Leary managed to pin Kibbe against the ropes late in the first round, landing an effective left, right, left, right combo. But Kibbe responded quickly, outmaneuvering his opponent before landing violent jabs and uppercuts.

Kibbe embraced his opponent after the match.

“Joey is a good friend of mine; I grew up playing soccer with him,” Kibbe said. “We went to rival high schools, so I’ve competed against him before. But this was different, especially after we were sparring partners this year and worked out together. It was the toughest fight I’ve been in.”

150 pounds

Timothy “Slayer” Thayer def. Matt “Poz” Posluszny

Thayer was in control of the ring from the opening bell, landing hook after hook en route to a unanimous victory over his opponent. Thayer’s aggressive approach and desire were too much for the senior Posluszny.

“We traded a lot of blows, I just felt I stayed a little bit ahead of him,” Thayer said. “Poz is a great fighter, a great guy. He’s tall, so I just tried to start most things by working to the body, and worked my way up from there.”

Thayer bloodied Posluszny’s nose early in the match with hard hooks to the face and pinned him against the ropes for a couple of jab combos. Posluszny responded in the third round with a more aggressive style, using his great left jab and hook to deal out some damage to the junior Thayer.

But in the end it was too little, too late as Thayer held on for the victory.

“Tim Thayer is very experienced from last year, and has a very good right hook, which I found out first-hand,” Posluszny said. “It was a well-deserved win by him. I gave it my all. If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it the same way.”

155 pounds

Dan “You’re in the Lion’s Den Now” Rodgers def. John “L.E.R.N” Maier

Rodgers used his experience and fast start to come out victorious in the championship. Rodgers won his third championship.

Rodgers came out strong in the opening round, negating Maier’s distinct height advantage by using superior technique. He connected on one hard right hook after forcing Maier into the corner, a strategy that Rodgers was not used to employing.

“Normally I’m fighting guys that are smaller than me, so I can be the guy on the outside hitting,” Rodgers said. “He’s got the long reach and a quick jab; it was tough for me to get inside all the time.”

Rodgers came out attacking again at the opening of the second round, but the fight became much more even as the round progressed.

“In the second round he came out hard, and hit me with three really good rights,” Maier said. “I was being a little too tentative.”

Even though the referee was forced to stop the match twice due to bleeding by Rodgers, once in each of the final two rounds, Rodgers connected on a hard right hook in each round, solidified his victory by unanimous decision.

Despite the loss, Maier was pleased with his performance throughout the tournament, and predicted similar success for next year.

“I conditioned harder this year than I had any other year, I made sure the training was there this year,” Maier said. “I’ll be back in the finals next year.”

160 pounds

Jordan “Shake and Bake” Bucci def. Jim “Rainbow Sprinkles” Devereaux

In a rematch of last year’s championship bout, Bucci exacted his revenge by defeating senior Devereaux in a split decision. In one of the closest matches of the night, Bucci was able to achieve victory by attacking Devereaux in each round and forcing him up against the ropes throughout the fight.

Both fighters started the match wildly throwing punches, but neither connected consistently. Bucci cornered Devereaux multiple times, but it was Devereaux who seemed to be landing quality punches.

Devereaux tried to start the second round aggressively, but Bucci was once again able to counter, and landed a solid run of punches early in round two. Both fighters were very quick with their punches, and neither showed any sign of defensive fighting.

Bucci was the aggressor in round three and forced the referee to pause the fight for the second time due to bleeding by Devereaux. Both fighters showed signs of fatigue in the third round, exerting no energy to stop each other’s blows. Bucci once again pushed Devereaux up against the ropes late in the final round, which likely sealed his victory.

“He’s the same guy I fought last year in the finals, and he beat me last year,” Bucci said. “I’m tired, but happy.”

165 pounds

Alex “Check Out his Chicken Legs” Duffy def. Daniel “It’s Shower Time” Brennan

Duffy was victorious in a walkover due to Brennan breaking his nose in his semifinal victory over Matt Hopke.

170 pounds

Bernardo Garcia def. Andres Villalba

Using his height advantage and unorthodox fighting style, Garcia was able to defend his title by defeating captain Andres Villalba in a split decision. He was able to keep his distance from Villalba with his reach, and then used uppercuts whenever Villalba tried to get in close.

“I wasn’t prepared for how big his reach was,” Villalba said. “I had a hard time getting inside.”

The fight started aggressively in the first minute of round one, but then fell back into a more normal pace. Garcia was unable to connect on his patented uppercut and wrapped often, as Villalba expertly blocked the blows with his left hand.

Villalba once again attacked in round two, and was connecting on more solid punches than was Garcia, but Garcia was able to wrap and then connect on rapid fire punches with his right hand. Villalba attempted to use combos, finishing with his strong right hook, but had difficulty getting close enough to Garcia to connect consistently.

For the third straight round, Villalba came out aggressively, but tired quickly. This allowed Garcia to land quick jabs and kept Villalba from attacking Garcia’s body. Villalba once again connected on a hard right hook, but it was not enough in the end.

“I’m just upset,” Villalba said. “You always feel like you could have done more, that’s the biggest thing.”

175 pounds

Mike “The Big Dog” Lee def. Mike Doran

In the last fight of his undefeated career, Lee won his third straight Bengal Bouts championship by defeating the sophomore Doran in a unanimous decision. Lee was too quick and too strong for Doran, who struggled to defend himself from the powerful blows from Lee.

Lee came out aggressively, attacking Doran despite Doran’s height advantage. Lee went after Doran’s body, which made it impossible for Doran to do anything but protect himself. Lee was quick enough to dodge punches rather than needing to block them, often dropping his hands in order to load up his strength before firing off a barrage of devastating blows.

“(Lee) is an amazing fighter,” Doran said. “He’s so fast, you just can’t hit him. He’s too good with his defense.”

It was more of the same in round two, though Doran was able to block a few of Lee’s jabs. The referee was forced to pause the fight to count as Lee finished a powerful combo with a hard right hand to Doran’s chin.

“I really try to focus on my speed,” Lee said. “The punches that hurt are the punches you can’t see.”

Lee spent the third round attempting to set Doran up for a knockout blow. His technique remained flawless, using no excess movement, even as he attacked Doran. Doran was showing signs of fatigue by the third round, but managed to keep Lee from knocking him down.

“(Doran) couldn’t be a nicer kid,” Lee said. “I think he’s going to do amazing in the next few years.”

185 pounds

Leo “The South Paw Lion Claw” Rubinkowski def. John “The Boogie Woogie Monster” Tchoula

For the second year in a row, the captain Rubinkowski defeated the sophomore Tchoula. Rubinkowski came out victorious for the first time in three finals appearances. Rubinkowski defeated Tchoula in the semi-finals last year in a close fight, and credited his reach and experience for the victory.

“[Tchoula is] the most natural athlete in the program this year,” Rubinkowski said. “He’s an incredible boxer.”

The fight started out slowly, with neither boxer connecting on a punch throughout most of the first round. Tchoula used his quickness to dodge the jabs of Rubinkowski, who used his height to block the blows thrown by Tchoula.

Tchoula came out attacking in the second round, but Rubinkowski kept him at a distance with a flurry of jabs that Tchoula could not dodge. Rubinkowski connected on far more punches than Tchoula, who was unable to get close enough to Rubinkowski to land any blows.

“[Rubinkowski is] really tall, and he’s got that reach,” Tchoula said. “And he’s left-handed, which screws a lot of people up.”

In the final round, Tchoula knew that he needed a knockout to win, and came out swinging. He seemed to be connecting on more punches than before, but left himself open, and Rubinkowski took advantage by landing multiple shots to Tchoula’s head. The referee paused the fight due to bleeding by Tchoula. Despite a solid third round from Tchoula, Rubinkowski was credited with the unanimous victory.

“I had been to the finals twice, and lost both times,” Rubinkowski said. “The feeling of being in the ring, hearing the ref say, ‘In the blue corner’ and I know I’m in the blue shorts, it’s incredible.”

200 pounds

Benford Begay def. Pat “Third Degree” Burns

Despite dislocating his dominant right shoulder early in the first round after a wild right hook, Begay was victorious in his first Bengal Bouts finals appearance.

Early in the first round, Begay threw a hard right hook that dislocated his shoulder. He was checked over by physicians and was then allowed to return to the fight.

“[My shoulder] became dislocated. It’s an on and off injury,” Begay said. “I had a lot of fans out there who were supporting me. I couldn’t stop after just two fights.”

Begay fought the rest of the first round without using his right arm, only throwing quick jabs with his uninjured left hand, which he often landed because of his superior speed.

Neither fighter landed many punches in the second round, but Burns came out more aggressively than he had in the first round. Begay began using his right arm to fake punches and rarely used it to punch, though it had much less force than before.

Burns once again came out aggressively in the third round, but Begay landed solid blows with both his right and left hand. After knocking Burns back early in round three, Begay called for the crowd to stand. Seconds later, he landed a devastating combo, knocking Burns to the mat with a hard hook with the injured right arm. Burns was able to finish the fight, but Begay dominated the remaining portion of the third round on his way to the unanimous victory.

“It’s been a great experience,” Begay said. “I wanted to keep fighting, to take something away from this.”