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Bengal Bouts: Training intensifies as semifinals arrive

Mary Green | Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The semifinals for Bengal Bouts have arrived, and the boxers can feel anticipation in the air of the training pit.

There is no more sparring, little group training and, for some, no small talk with the competition, junior captain and heavyweight Dan Yi said.

“I actually know a couple people, especially in the preliminaries, who don’t know who they’re fighting and during the fight, it’s a pretty awkward way to introduce yourself, ‘Hey I’m gonna be stepping into the ring with you and I’m gonna be punching you,'” Yi said.

For most boxers, training became more serious and methodical as they continued winning and avoided any injury that would eliminate them from the tournament. Yi said the remaining competitors have narrowed their focus to maintaining their technique from fight to fight.

More nerves also play a larger role in the semifinals, and many thrive on the thrill of the competition. For some, a material award provides extra motivation, as the finalists in each division receive a jacket that indicates their finishing place in Bengal Bouts. Those goals increase the pressure on each boxer as they advance deeper into the tournament, Yi said.

“A lot of guys are a lot more nervous than they usually are because there’s a lot more at stake when you get to this level,” Yi said.

The logistical pressure of the new round adds to the intensity. Since there are only four fighters left in each weight class, the number of rings will shrink from two to one, and all eyes are on the only fight taking place. Yi, who won the 198-lb. division his freshman year and the heavyweight division last year, said the increased attention augments boxers’ pre-fight jitters.

“It’s definitely different because when you have two rings going, you have two different bells going and a bunch of different things going on,” he said. “With the one-ring system, everyone that’s watching, everyone that’s there is definitely watching your fight because your fight’s the only one that’s going on, so it’s definitely different.”

For fans, these elements should add up to a great night of fights in determining the two remaining boxers who will compete in Friday night’s finals. But before the Bengal Bouts champions can be crowned, the stage will be set in tonight’s semis, and Yi anticipated strong matchups in each weight class.

“At this point, there isn’t any huge disparity in talent and experience between any given two boxers in the semis, so I think they’ll all be pretty good,” he said. “I think all of them will be fun to watch.”

The first bell of the Bengal Bouts semifinals rings tonight at 6 p.m. in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse.

Contact Mary Green at [email protected]