Whelan discovers call to humanity through Bouts
Cornelius McGrath | Thursday, February 27, 2014
Josh Whelan’s love affair with Bengal Bouts began back in October 2010. As a young freshman from the south nicknamed, “Sunshine,” Whelan desperately longed to feel like he was a part of a team again.
“The team atmosphere that surrounds the Bengal Bouts is something I fell in love with immediately,” Whelan said. “Having played three sports in four years at high school, I needed to feel that I was working with a group of guys to achieve something greater than ourselves.”
When asked why he wanted to be a Bengal Bouts captain, Whelan credits the seniors who inspired him his rookie year.
“The senior captains were just the coolest of dudes, honestly,” Whelan said. “Bobby Powers and Nick Severin were just great athletes, leaders and competitors. I wanted to be like them and I still try to emulate them as much as I can.”
The office of captain brings both great expectation and pressure, and Whelan is the first to admit he fell short of his own expectations, losing in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
“I worked my [butt] off in training and tried to envision that Muhammad Ali, “I am the greatest,” attitude,” Whelan said. “But I just couldn’t find it within myself.”
However, the senior from Duncan also understands he has fulfilled his duties as a captain in other ways.
“As much as you might want to say that it’s all about me and I want to go out and win this fight for Josh Whelan, for the jacket and for the history books, it wasn’t like that for me.” Whelan said. “It’s about the money we raise, the nature of the missions and the true fulfilment of the Catholic manhood.”
When asked recently by a manager to sum up the essence of Bengal Bouts in five words, Whelan replied that it was all about, “answering the call to humanity.”
“I believe that we are taught, through boxing, to lead our lives for someone other than ourselves,” Whelan said. “So in that sense, I don’t feel like a failure because I found the companionship I was seeking as a captain, I was able to meet new kids and share my love of boxing with them, and have a ton of fun in the meantime.”
Whelan will be the first to admit that with the hectic schedule of Bengal Bouts and college life in general, it is very easy for him to sometimes forget about the true purpose of the program.
“Sometimes you just want to go out and fight, meet the pretty girls, and get your name on a poster,” said Whelan. “As a captain, you have a huge role to play in reminding everyone that they are not there for themselves.”
Whelan speaks proudly of the boxing club’s link with the Summer Service Learning Program in Bangladesh, which he feels brings the true meaning of the program to life for many fighters.
“Those four guys who get to spend eight weeks teaching in the Catholic parishes and Holy Cross missions get to experience the real magic of the program first hand,” Whelan said. “We’re supporting other people’s lives across the world.”
Whelan fights not only with intensity, but also with the, “Pride of the South,” the nickname he chose for the Bouts.
“I was born and bred in Savannah, Ga., and never really thought about how proud I was of my home until I moved to the cold and disparaging Midwest,” Whelan said.
Whelan’s original nickname, “Sunshine,” did not stick because he wanted a name that was more defining and reflected who he was, he said.
“As my dad would say, I was ready to, ‘ruffle the Yankee feathers,’ in the ring, so I had to enjoy that southern pride and embrace it’s history,” Whelan said.
The proud southerner has a protégé in Mike Grasso, who Whelan hopes will win the 166-pound bracket for him.
“I sparred with Mike and he’s a tough kid who wants to win and has the fire in his belly which I lacked,” Whelan said. “He’s a good guy, loves everything about Bengal Bouts, and I’ve taught him a little. So if I can’t win, it’d be nice to see someone who I coached do well instead.”
Although this is the last chapter for Whelan’s participation in Bengal Bouts as a student, he said his love affair with the program is more than just a fling.
“I might not have a jacket with my name on it, but I will be able to tie myself to an incredible program that will continue for another 84 years,” Whelan said.
Whelan hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a physician upon graduating from Notre Dame, and it is evident this dream has aided his love of Bengal Bouts.
“I truly feel that I have finally achieve my sole purpose here – helping other people live good lives,” Whelan said. “And that is something I have always wanted.”