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Baraka Bouts: Tournament returns with new format

Mike Monaco | Sunday, November 6, 2011

Remember those women doing push-ups, sit-ups and calisthenics outside of South Dining Hall last Friday? Those were members of the Notre Dame Women’s Boxing Club, which kicks off its annual boxing tournament, Baraka Bouts, Monday night.

The club, which combines athletics and charity, is in its 14th season on campus. This year’s Baraka Bouts will be the first time the tournament has two rounds. Monday night, approximately 85 boxers will compete in round one, with the winners advancing to round two on Thursday. Although the bouts are competitive and winners are chosen, the focus of the tournament is more on displaying the skills learned during months of intense training, senior co-president Erin Byrne said.

“Winning and losing is not the center of our tournament,” Byrne said. “We have a compromise between having the best boxer win and having the best fights possible given size and skill.”

In the past, the boxers had been paired according to experience, skill and size. This year, the women are grouped in pods of four. Within the pod, they are assigned a partner who they will fight in round one. The two pod winners then square off in round two.

“I think [the tournament] is great because girls who worked so hard don’t have to say goodbye to it all in one night,” senior co-president Jen Coe said. “You have a chance to advance and also for the girls who don’t advance, they have a chance to watch and cheer on the other girls.”

These matches are the culmination of months of training and preparation. Since the beginning of September, the lady boxers have had two-hour practices four to six times a week. For the first month the practices consisted of conditioning, basic technique instruction and low-energy contact drills. Not until the week before fall break did the boxers begin sparring.

“[Sparring] is really where the girls learn the most about what it’s really like to box,” Byrne said. “We had our last session [on Saturday] so we’ve had about three-and-a-half weeks of sparring.”

Byrne said the Women’s Boxing Club has one of the biggest time commitments of all university organizations, but she also said the intense workouts are an attractive aspect for many of the club members.

“Fitness-wise, the intensity is very similar to a JV or varsity level of high school sports,” Byrne said. “This is definitely one of the most time-intensive clubs. But the girls like having the time commitment and having to come four days a week. It’s a hard commitment, but it means a lot when the girls make it through to the end because it takes so much [to get through the training].”

As for the charitable element of the Women’s Boxing Club, the boxers raise money not only through various fundraising efforts leading up to Baraka Bouts, but also through the tournament itself. One of the main fundraising events this year was the Power 24 Hour. In the past, the event was simply a single hour. This year, however, the boxers took turns outside South Dining Hall, where they worked out and collected donations.

Byrne said the event was a huge success, as the club raised roughly 10 times more than they had in previous years.

All profits go to the Holy Cross Missions in Uganda to help improve secondary school education. In prior years, the money went specifically to the Lakeview Senior Secondary School. The effects of the donations have been palpable, Byrne said.

“The amount of difference that our fundraising has made at Lakeview is monumental,” Byrne said. “The quality of facilities and the area where the kids can board is so much better than anywhere else in Uganda.”

This year, the money will also go toward St. Joesph’s Hill Secondary School, primarily to establish on-campus housing for students. Students, who sometimes have to walk two hours to and from school, will now have a place to board, which will be beneficial to their studies.

“The students have no time after they walk home from school,” Byrne said. “Also, when they live at home they’re responsible for household chores. The boarding part of the high schools allows them to [devote more time] to their studies.”

Byrne and Coe, along with fellow senior Natalie Baldasare, had the opportunity to visit Uganda and saw firsthand just how much of an impact Baraka Bouts has made on the lives of people some 7,600 miles away.

“When I was there, I saw how important education is, especially in the lives of girls, [since] it is still a very patriarchal society,” Coe said.

Looking back on her four years as a member of the Boxing Club, Coe commended the duality of the organization.

“I think it’s so fantastic that we can be in an athletic program that is also a service program,” she said.

The bell to commence Baraka Bouts rings Monday at 5 p.m. in the Joyce Center.


Contact Mike Monaco at [email protected]