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Stronger bodies fight

| Thursday, February 27, 2014

This Sunday, Notre Dame’s 84th Annual Bengal Bouts tournament comes to its epic conclusion with championship matches in each weight class beginning at 2 p.m. in Purcell Pavilion.

I was eliminated by a split decision Tuesday night in the semifinal round in the heavyweight division, but I’ll still be there, because this club is about much more than winning and losing. After the final bell rings and the last victorious hand is raised in the air, the season will be over and Notre Dame Men’s Boxing will shut its doors until October. But far away, in the streets of Dhaka and Srimangal and Khalippur in Bangladesh, the impact of our work will be felt long after the lights go out in the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center.
The tournament has been heavily promoted, and, by now, most of you are surely aware of it. To be honest, I am mostly writing this because these Viewpoint pages are normally full of petty bickering and self-righteous political grandstanding (you know who you are) that I think they could use a healthy dose of perspective.

Before I begin, I am not at all suggesting we do not have problems in this country. There are people even on this very campus who have had to face poverty, hunger and disease, been victims of crime or natural disaster, endured heartbreaking family hardship or faced harassment, discrimination, even hatred, simply because of who they are. I am not in any way trying to denigrate these people or discount the challenges they have overcome.

That aside, speaking broadly, if we were to organize problems around the world into weight classes similar to those used in boxing, American problems would generally be bantamweight problems. Notre Dame students’ problems would generally be flyweight problems. Bengali problems, on the other hand, are heavyweight problems. They are the face-tattooed, ear-munching Mike Tyson of problems.

Bangladesh is about the size of Wisconsin. Many of you probably live in Wisconsin. It’s a beautiful state. But as an experiment, let’s take Wisconsin and have half the population of the United States move into it, with 80 percent of them living in extreme poverty (less than $2 a day). Wind the economic development clock back approximately 100 years so there is so little work that the most profitable way to spend your day is digging through the trash for scraps that you can sell in the streets. Throw in a bevy of tropical diseases and flooding that every now and then turns streets into canals because of poor infrastructure. What’s more, you have little-to-no opportunity to escape this situation. There is no pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps — you don’t even have boots.

What seems to an American like an impossible carnival of horrors plagiarized from the Book of Job is everyday life for tens of millions of people in Bangladesh.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that you have a chance to help remedy this situation. The price of your ticket to Sunday’s Bouts, as well as any donations you make at bengalbouts.nd.edu/donate will support missions working to end poverty and human suffering in Bangladesh. They will fund schooling from elementary to college level that helps people to gain skills necessary to finding employment. They will support medical facilities that treat debilitating and/or deadly diseases. Each year, with ticket sales, donations, ads in the tournament program and merchandise, we raise approximately $100,000 to support these causes. If that doesn’t seem like a lot in the face of such enormous suffering, ask your friend the economics major (everyone has one) about the difference between what $100,000 can do in the United States and what it can do in Bangladesh.

Despite how hard we train and how much pride we take in our performance, the heart of the Men’s Boxing club is absolutely and unequivocally supporting the missions. Our club has one simple, definitive creed, attributed to Dominic “Nappy” Napolitano (sort of the Knute Rockne of Notre Dame Boxing): “Strong bodies fight, that weak bodies may be nourished.” Every single one of us steps into the ring knowing we are not fighting for ourselves, but for millions of people halfway around the world. We all joined this club because we wanted to be a part of something greater than ourselves. If you want to be a part of it, too, or if you just want to watch 22 buff, shirtless men beat the crap out of each other for a couple hours, come out Sunday afternoon. You may not be able to step in the ring, but you can still join the fight.

Matthew Boomer is a sophomore political science and history major in O’Neill Hall.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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