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Michael Feijoo’s journey motivated by honor and gratitude

| Friday, March 1, 2019

Bengal Bouts captain Michael Feijoo enjoys the boxing club not just because he likes the athletic challenge, but because it provides something more meaningful: care. The hundreds of hours Feijoo has put into his boxing career at Notre Dame help the fundraising efforts of the Holy Cross missions in Bangladesh. Bengal Bouts does more than just please fans — it serves hundreds of people.

Feijoo first started his Bengal Bouts journey his freshman year, joining the training regimen because of his fear of gaining the “freshman 15,” he said.

He got his “butt kicked” the first day of practice. Feijoo said he realized the rumor that the boxing workouts were tough was an understatement.

The now-senior stayed on with the boxing program after that first practice and soon learned more about the charitable aspects of the club. He heard from guys who had been to Bangladesh talk about how they had seen first-hand the difference that their fundraising was making. They talked about building a school, providing health care and sharing the teachings of Jesus with people who were less financially fortunate in the South Asian nation.

Feijoo said he learned many life lessons that he now carries into the ring through his experiences in Bengal Bouts and as a student. Through boxing, he learned to push forward, to remind himself to simply remember why he was boxing when it became difficult.

“When things get tough, I think back — ‘What is this for?’ It’s not for me, it’s for [those who benefit from the fundraising of Bengal Bouts],”  Feijoo said. “I’m challenging myself not for the benefit of me, but for the benefit of them.”

Through his trips with Timmy Global Health — a non-profit organization that provides sustainable healthcare to a handful of Latin-American countries — Feijoo said he’s learned to be grateful for all the blessings in life. He cited his time with the organization in Quito, Ecuador, as one of his greatest memories as a Notre Dame student.

“A favorite moment of mine was being [in Quito] and seeing [the faces of those we helped] light up, just being so grateful that I was able to help provide healthcare,” Feijoo said. “Little did they know that I was incredibly grateful to be there to help them, to be humbled by them and to learn from them.”

For Feijoo, service in developing countries has provided perspective throughout his four years at the University.

“I learned to be grateful for the smallest things in life, to realize how fortunate I am but also to learn from them on how one can be so happy with so little in life,” he said. “You don’t need a lot to be happy, and you should be grateful for everything that you have in life. It was a humbling experience.”

A theology and pre-health major combination suits Feijoo best, he said. To him, theology is like learning the human experience and the way that people find meaning in life. He said he is passionate about learning how Jesus’s compassionate and loving teachings came to be, and how he lived.

Meanwhile, Feijoo’s pre-health major is in line with his long-term goal of completing his medical school degree. He said he wants to be a physician who has genuine connections and long-term relationships with his patients, and to incorporate his theology background into his work.

“From my experiences, I’ve really appreciated the honor and the trust to care for those who are vulnerable,” Feijoo said. “With theology, I’m incorporating it because a lot of the texts that I read involves a lot of compassion and a lot of love. And I want to integrate that compassion, that love and that care within medicine as a physician.”

While some may perceive boxing to be in opposition to compassion and love, Feijoo argues that boxing is a sport, not actual fighting. And the way he shows his care for others is through respect. Respect for the sport and respect for his opponent. Feijoo’s “boxing family,” as he calls the other members of Bengal Bouts, all train and practice and struggle together. He said he has a lot of respect for whomever he fights because, at the end of the day, they’re his teammates.

That’s why at the end of every bout, Feijoo said, he makes sure to hug his teammate — for honor, for respect.

Feijoo will get one last chance for a post-fight hug on Friday during the final round of this year’s Bengal Bouts.

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