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Dan O’Brien recognizes the true purpose of Bengal Bouts

| Thursday, February 13, 2020

Bengal Bouts has been a huge part of Dan “The Pilgrim” O’Brien’s overall Notre Dame experience. 

The junior from St. Edward’s Hall said one of his favorite parts about Bengal Bouts is the club’s dedication to raising money for the Holy Cross mission in Bangladesh.

“Personally I think it’s a great opportunity anytime you can come and contribute to a cause that is greater than any one individual,” O’Brien said. “And that’s what it turns into.”

Despite boxing being more of an individual sport, the mission statement brings all members of Bengal Bouts together, O’Brien noted. 

“We train as individual boxers,” O’Brien said. “But at the end of the season we get to come together and fight people that you have trained with all for the purpose of raising money for the Holy Cross mission in Bangladesh.”

Nola Wallace | The Observer

Junior Dan O’Brien adjusts a punching bag during Bengal Bouts training on Feb. 6 at the Joyce Center.

O’Brien has never had the chance to visit Bangladesh, but O’Brien still recognizes a profound impact the mission statement has had on him since he joined as a freshman.

“Coming in freshman year, it was definitely more of the workouts and the program as a whole that attracted me to it,” O’Brien said. “It was only later in the season that I decided to fight in the tournament.”

Observing the spirit and energy at the tournament surrounding the mission statement in Bangladesh caused O’Brien to train even harder come sophomore year.

“[That was] what really lit a fire in me come sophomore year and made me set much more ambitious fundraising goals and train harder a little bit earlier in the season,” he said.

Now a captain, O’Brien has had to work on the logistics behind the mission statement. This has moved him to be even more appreciative of the cause.

Now as a captain, O’Brien has embraced his role and has enjoyed leading younger teammates at practice. 

“During the workouts, you are working out in a line in front of everyone,” O’Brien said. “I remember as a freshman coming in and not being in the same shape that I am now, there were workouts that I just could not finish.”

Having captains to motivate him as an underclassman encouraged O’Brien to stay in the program.

“One of the things that got me through that progression even on days where I didn’t want to show up was that line of captains,” O’Brien said. “Their passion and their dedication, and the fact that they weren’t taking any days off was one of the things that kept me coming back the first couple months of the program.”

In his leadership role now, O’Brien hopes to be the type that can encourage the underclassmen in Bengal Bouts.

“Being on the other side of that has been daunting, but it has been an honor and a pleasure,” he said.

His favorite memory from Bengal Bouts was before his finals fight last year. He arrived early and had time to wander around, noting the heightened energy and anxiety that inevitably came with the increased stakes of final rounds.

He was astonished at the atmosphere of Purcell Pavilion that night. It allowed him to reflect on how amazing Bengal Bouts is and the impact that it has had on him.

“The perspective [I had as I] wandered around the arena on the night of the fights calmed me down a little bit and stands out in my head as one of the more significant moments that I have had in the program,” he said.

He came to the realization that Bengal Bouts is so much more than a simple boxing competition.

“At the end of the day, it was a bunch of Notre Dame students who gave their sweat, their time, and in some instances their blood to try and perfect a pretty difficult and dangerous skill in order to send money halfway around the world where it has more purpose than it does here,” O’Brien said.

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