Pat Gordon reflects on boxing career, Bengal Bouts after Golden Gloves victory
Connor Mulvena | Wednesday, May 2, 2018
If you talk to Pat Gordon, it doesn’t take long to realize what kind of person he is.
Pat Gordon is a boxer, and an excellent one at that.
Gordon, a Notre Dame senior, has proven that time and time again here at Notre Dame, claiming three-consecutive Bengal Bouts championships in his sophomore, junior and senior years. And he proved it once again this March on a national stage.
Rewind to Gordon’s junior year of high school. He was a kid who needed an outlet, as many people do during trying times in life. And he fortunately stumbled upon boxing.
“My mom passed away, and I was looking for an outlet,” Gordon said. “I thought about joining the military. Dad thought maybe that’s not the right thing for me. So I just walked into a boxing gym one day, and it turned out to be — it was a boxing gym like 10 minutes away from me — run by a former two-time champion of the world and former fighter of the year.”
It was love at first fight for Gordon. From there on out, he entrenched himself in the world of boxing.
“I instantly fell in love. I’d go at 5 a.m. to the gym, go to school all day, go to track practice, and then go back [to the gym] in the evenings,” he said. “It just clicked.”
A year later, Gordon would come to visit Notre Dame when deciding where he would attend college. And after getting to know the boxing program on campus, he said the choice was easy.
“Notre Dame was one of the few schools that has any type of boxing,” Gordon said. “So I toured, and at the senior accepted-students tour, I went to a practice [and] met all of the captains. I thought it was a great program, and [I knew] this is where I wanted to be.”
It was a match made in heaven. At Notre Dame, Gordon entrenched himself in the boxing club from the very start, participating in Bengal Bouts his freshman year. He would eventually go on to become a captain and president of the club.
But it wasn’t so easy in the beginning.
“Freshman year is a very different attitude than I have now, in that I was an unknown commodity,” he said. “No one knew who I was. I kind of fed off of that. I didn’t want people to know who I was. I didn’t have access to the gym — I didn’t have a key, I wasn’t a captain. I wasn’t a well-known guy. So I trained in Rolfs pretty much by myself every night. I trained hard.”
The No. 4-seed in the 196-pound division of Bengal Bouts, Gordon went on to defeat a two-time champion and president of the boxing club in a semifinal fight which he said he knew no one gave him a chance to win. He would lose a close fight in the finals to Jack Considine, the incoming president of the boxing club.
The first-year defeat awoke a sleeping dragon, fueling Gordon’s remarkable efforts in the coming years.
“It was a close fight, but I came up a little bit short there,” he said. “Going out, I was like ‘Hey, I hate losing, don’t want to do it again.’ … It fed me some fire for the upcoming years.”
Gordon claimed victory in the next three Bengal Bouts tournaments, winning each final fight by unanimous decision.
Now, let’s fast forward to March 2018.
With Bengal Bouts behind him, Gordon headed to Cicero, Illinois, for the 2018 Chicago Golden Gloves, a branch of the nationally-renowned boxing tournament. But this was no campus fundraising tournament. It was a different beast.
On March 9, Gordon arrived at Cicero Stadium for the preliminary round of the senior novice heavyweight division. He was thoroughly trained, but he was still a senior in college and a boxer who had picked up the craft in his junior year of high school. Matchups are normally posted for the fighters an hour-and-a-half prior to the fight, but on Gordon’s first night, there was an error, and he was informed of his opponent a mere 30 minutes prior to round one. And what a first opponent it was for Gordon.
“I didn’t know who he was. My buddy looked him up on facebook, turns out he was an MMA fighter with 20 fights, and he had knocked his last three fighters out in the first 45 seconds,” Gordon said. “The guy was good. He was tough.”
Gordon was in a new world of boxing. Gone were the large rings of Bengal Bouts in the Dahnke Ballroom. Rings of Golden Gloves are half the size, which means more action. Gone were the safety-focused 16-ounce gloves of Notre Dame’s boxing club. The gloves in Chicago were 12 ounces. And Gordon hadn’t sparred his opponent prior to the fight, as he had in Bengal Bouts. Instead, he said hello to an MMA veteran.
“I didn’t know what to expect, and he came out swinging,” he said. “He caught me a few times, and I was like, ‘Alright, here it is. We’re in for a fight.’”
Smaller ring, lighter gloves and a mixed-martial-arts champion — a recipe for disaster for most fighters.
Not for Gordon.
“Going into the second round, I switched stances, hit him with a stiff left jab and broke his nose,” he said.
The fight was over, as they couldn’t stop the bleeding.
Gordon also won his next fight by technical knockout (TKO). After that, he claimed victory in the semifinals by split decision.
In the finals, Gordon faced the toughest test of pure boxing he’s had in his career, and for the first two rounds, things didn’t necessarily go as planned.
“He was the best pure boxer I fought,” he said. “I was very much so looking for a knockout, so I was head hunting a little bit, throwing a lot of power hooks. It was neck-and-neck on the cards. I probably won the first round, he probably won the second. But it was close. In my corner, [coach] Matt Gelchion said, ‘Get your s— together, stop head hunting, tighten up, let’s go.’ … I was kind of fighting like a spaz.”
But in the third round, Gordon took care of business, as he has time and time again. He made a plan, and executed it to a tee.
“I snapped out of it in the beginning of the third round,” Gordon said. “I knew immediately what I wanted to do. … One of my favorite combos is like a Mike Tyson combo, where you throw a hook to the body and then shoot an uppercut. So I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to get him up against the ropes and do that.’”
Gordon did just that, and he won the final fight by TKO.
“As soon as he hit the ground, they stopped it,” he said. “It was one of those — as soon as you land it, you knew it was clean and you’re like, ‘OK, it’s over.’”
With that, Gordon claimed the 2018 Chicago Golden Gloves championship, becoming only the second fighter in Notre Dame history to do so.
Pat Gordon is a grinder.
He’s gritty, passionate and his hunger is insatiable.
“Back home, I train in the summer,” he said. “I never really stopped. There was no offseason for me. Lots of hard work and dedication. Everyday, with my coach, we would train for four or five hours. Grinding, grinding workouts.”
Every day, Gordon is with Gelchion — who works in development at Notre Dame — in the Pit, grinding out every last bit of every workout. Gelchion was integral to Gordon’s success in Bengal Bouts and beyond; and for him, Gordon said he is extremely thankful.
“He and I have always had a special connection. He’s coached all of my Bengal Bouts fights, all 16 of them,” Gordon said of Gelchion. “He’s one of my best friends. … Over Spring Break, I stayed out here because I had a fight and everyone is gone, but he’s always there. … It’s rare to find someone who is just focused on training you, one-on-one. Not only did he do that, but when we’re [working out], he’s there doing every single rep with me so it would suck less. That was awesome. It was a really cool experience to have someone like that, always there for you.”
Behind the scenes of Gordon’s victories, in Bengal Bouts and Golden Gloves, him and Gelchion spent hours upon hours perfecting the craft. Whether it be sprints, long runs, pushups, spars, jump ropes or anything else under the sun, Gordon dedicated himself restlessly outside of the ring.
“[Gelchion] called himself ‘Dr. Frankenstein’ because he said he was going to make a monster. He’d make these personalized workouts, [so] every day I’d have a personalized workout made,” Gordon said. “We’d typically start with three or four rounds of three minutes on the jump rope, and then 10 rounds of shadow boxing in the mirror, and then we’d get into the conditioning. We’d do a deck workout. … He and I would go through the deck of cards and say, ‘That wasn’t quick enough,’ and we’d do it again, right back through it. Then, we’d say, ‘We can beat that.’ So we’d go right back through it again. Typically about that time, it’d be maybe halfway through the workout.”
Additionally, Gordon couldn’t spar people on campus to prepare for Golden Gloves due to a lack of EMTs available to him, so he let other boxers throw on him. He couldn’t fight back.
“Because I’m outgoing, I would have guys come in and throw on me,” he said. “I would get the best guys in Bengal Bouts and be like, ‘Hey, could you guys come in for 40 minutes?’ I would bring two or three guys and have them rotate. I went six or seven rounds, where the first guy would throw on me, stop and then bring in someone fresh, and that guy would throw on me. We’d go like that for six rounds, where I’m going six rounds straight but they’re fresh everytime. So I really have to work. I’m not throwing anything back, so all I have to work on is defense.”
And then, just when you think the work would be done, Gordon would get into his cardio.
“Typically, it’s like 8:30 [p.m.] at that point in the night,” he said. “So after that, I’m off to Loftus to run some type of cardio — either longer cardio, five or six miles, or sprints around the track.”
Pat Gordon is selfless.
In his first two years of Bengal Bouts, Gordon was mainly focused on boxing. After working hard in high school, he was determined to win and hone his own skills along the way. But when Gordon came into his junior year as a Bengal Bouts captain, his focus shifted.
“The jump from sophomore to junior year was big for a couple of reasons,” he said. “I was a captain my junior year, so it was more about helping other people develop and less about helping myself develop. I was being more of a leader and taking time out of my day to show guys, ‘Here’s how you throw a jab, here’s how you throw a hook.’”
With this leadership position came the opportunity to get involved in the fundraising mission of Bengal Bouts in Bangladesh. Gordon didn’t hesitate to do so, and his charity experiences with the boxing club remain dear to him today.
“Going hand in hand with that was the fundraising aspect of Bengal Bouts, which, I’ll admit, freshman and sophomore year was not at the forefront of my mind,” he said. “But then, junior and senior year, it was the No. 1 thing, the most important thing to me. After my junior year, I went to Bangladesh, which really solidified how important it was.
“There’s a reason why we’re giving our money there. They need it. When you go there, it’s not like going to Hawaii or going to stay at a five star resort. You’re going to live in Bangladesh and help out a place that really needs our help. It was — when I say life-changing, that sounds so cliche, but it really was. Think about education here at Notre Dame — it’s what, $70,000? $65,000 dollars? Over there, kids stay in a hostel, which is all-inclusive, so that gets their food, their clothes, their books, everything; and it’s like $15 a month. So they go to school for eight or nine months, so that’s basically $100 to go to school for a year. “
For Gordon, these efforts make all of the hard work behind the scenes worthwhile.
“We actually broke the fundraising record this year,” he said. “ … This year, we raised like $275,000. And when you raise that money, you just know that it’s actually changing lives, making a difference. Having gone over there and taught in the schools with the kids, met with the priest who benefitted, got the education from Bengal Bouts money, it put everything in perspective and made it feel like all the hard work really paid off.”
Gordon went on to become the president of the boxing club this year, his senior year at Notre Dame. And with all of the hard work, all that he has dedicated to Bengal Bouts, Gordon has the perspective to truly recognize the profound benefits of the tournament.
“Bengal Bouts is the most Notre Dame thing, the most Notre Dame experience, the most Notre Dame entity that we have at this campus,” Gordon said. ”In one sense, because we are literally the Fighting Irish. In another sense, it’s on a very firsthand, concrete basis — you’re doing it so you as a person can grow. You’re getting in shape. Maybe you just want to look good for spring break or maybe you want to learn how to fight or maybe you’re just doing it so you have a good supply of workouts or maybe you just want to look cool under the lights of the tournament. Whatever it may be, a lot of people get into it for themselves, as a way to better themselves; but then, realistically, people hang around because they’re really making a difference somewhere in the world.
“A lot of times, especially when you have a reputation like Notre Dame — constantly chasing a carrot, going through business school or chasing an MCAT score — you’re just trying to get into the next stage of your life and your constantly chasing something. … And it’s easy to get caught up in that. … Going over to Bangladesh and seeing the benefit firsthand, everyone who participated in Bengal Bouts — whether you were a freshman who lost his very first fight and it wasn’t even close or you were a captain or president — everyone made a difference. They actually made a positive difference in the world. I think that’s just a beautiful thing.”
And Gordon has made a difference in his time at Notre Dame. Whether it be in the Bengal Bouts record books, the legacy of becoming the second Golden Gloves champion in Notre Dame history or the mission in Bangladesh, Gordon has left his mark on this campus and beyond.
And while one might be able to go on and on about Gordon’s boxing abilities, work ethic or charitable efforts, the one word that sums up his efforts in the sport of boxing with certainty is “champion.”