Schmelling finds brotherhood in bouts
Darcy Dehais | Friday, March 3, 2017
Senior Bengal Bouts captain Garrett Schmelling has come full circle this year.
He is competing in the finals of the tournament Friday for the first time since his freshman year. However, over the course of his four years, he has found the relationships he has made with other boxers and the cause the fights support more important than the competition itself.
Schmelling joined Bengal Bouts as a freshman because he wanted to stay involved in an athletic team and continue to pursue his fitness goals while supporting a good cause. Schmelling wrestled in high school, and he said his background as a wrestler has helped him in his boxing training.
“Conditioning-wise, they’re very similar,” Schmelling said. “When you’re in the ring or on the wrestling mat, it’s just you out there. You don’t have a team with you during competition. You train with one, and there’s a team aspect to it, but when it’s time for competition, it’s you. You really have to dig deep, rely on yourself and kind of realize when it comes down to it, there’s no one else to turn to. You find out what you’ve got.”
Schmelling described himself as a “counter-puncher,” as he chooses to attack his opponent’s body and looking for opportunities to counter on attacks once he finds openings. Because he is shorter than most fighters, he said he has to try harder to find a way to get inside.
“My biggest strength is probably my composure,” Schmelling said. “I’m fine having a lot of punches thrown at me or taking a punch here and there — it doesn’t really throw me off like it might someone else. It’s just being comfortable in the thick of it with the punches flying. I can keep my head about me and keep going about my style.”
With the exception of his junior year, when he was studying abroad, Schmelling has participated in Bengal Bouts each year. As a freshman, he was the underdog of his semifinal bout and managed to earn a spot in the finals, where he ultimately lost to a more experienced boxer. Schmelling lost in the semifinals by split decision the next year.
Despite these losses, Schmelling persevered, winning every fight so far this season by unanimous decision. Although there are high stakes, he discussed the fact that he doesn’t feel pressure going into Friday’s final fight.
“I think there’s pressure to get to the finals and return to it, but once you get there, it’s really anybody’s fight,” Schmelling said. “Both guys are in the same position, and the ring’s the exact same size as it is in all the other fights. I don’t want to say that it’s just another fight because it’s not, but it’s kind of the goal to get to the finals. You just have to go out and fight your fight and enjoy being on the big stage.”
Schmelling said of all the things he has experienced in his years training for Bengal Bouts, the thing he will miss most is the camaraderie among the fighters.
“In how many other programs do you see guys going at it so hard out in the ring, and then when they [are] finished, they hug and a couple days later, they’re hanging out?” Schmelling said. “It’s 200-plus friends that I’ve made every single year because of Bengal Bouts, and I think I’m going to miss the guys the most.”
In the summer following his sophomore year, Schmelling had the opportunity to visit Bangladesh and experience firsthand the effects the money Bengal Bouts raised for Holy Cross Missions has had. He said that the influence the boxers have on the community in Bangladesh was astonishing to him.
“I got to see firsthand the impact that we’re having, and it’s really hard to comprehend,” Schmelling said. “We sit here, and we think we can understand how much impact we’re having, and it’s just not even close. I got to see a school that was completely funded by Bengal Bouts, which is phenomenal, but you could also tell that there was so much more that we could do.”
Schmelling prides himself in what Bengal Bouts stands for and he hopes to continue to further its mission.
“We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a long ways to go,” Schmelling said. “It’s a tradition of doing something more that I’m proud to be a part of. Obviously, the guys before us have done a ton, and we’re just laying the groundwork for the next 87 years of guys to come. It’s more than just a four-year boxing experience — it’s being a part of a brotherhood that has been contributing to a cause much bigger than all of us.”