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Strength, courage and Notre Dame boxing

| Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Śakti, Sāhasa. Strength, Courage. 

Every Bengal Bouts practice ends with those two words in Bengali (pronounced “shakti, shahosh”). This tradition was something I looked forward to each day during my time in the club. A call-and-response type breakdown of practice, the resulting echo from some 200 Bengal Bouts members never failed to give me chills. 

This Thursday, well over a hundred boxers will step into the ring for the 90th annual Bengal Bouts. The tournament raises over $200,000 yearly for the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh, providing food, housing, education and healthcare for those in need. 

Closing down practice with those two words, “shakti, shahosh” is one of the constant reminders of what the mission stands for. Much is made of that first word, meaning “strength.” Anyone who has participated in Bengal Bouts (or Baraka Bouts) practice knows the difficulty of boxing workouts. Training to box is grueling and unrelenting. It takes an incredible amount of strength to make it through the months of practice to the tournament in February. The club’s motto, “Strong Bodies Fight,” echoes this importance. As a result, the second word — courage — is often overlooked in comparison. Still, courage represents much of what Bengal Bouts is about. 

It takes courage to try out a new sport, as the majority of Notre Dame boxers have never boxed before joining the club. It takes courage for a freshman to show up alone to that first day of boxing practice. It takes courage for that senior who’s grown out of shape throughout college to show up too. Their strength keeps them at practice, but their courage ultimately drives them to step into the ring. 

Boxers will talk about the Bengal Bouts finals as one of the best nights of the year. Indeed, watching the best of the best compete for the championship is a treat. However, this first night of Bengal Bouts displays what the club stands for. For most boxers, the first round represents all of the work they have put in for the last few months. The hard truth is about half of all Bengal Bouts participants will end up losing in the first round. Yet, without them, the club’s incredible support of the Holy Cross Missions would not be possible. 

This night is for them. 

It’s for the freshman who showed up that first day of Bengal Bouts practice because boxing sounded cool, who then found a passion for the club’s camaraderie and mission. It’s for the senior who showed up because participating in Bengal Bouts was on his “Notre Dame Bucket List,” who then put in everything he had for his final year. It’s for the boxer who’s competing for the first time after his friends said there was no way he could ever box. 

That first time they step in the ring is one of the most exhilarating experiences they will ever have. Their courage is what got them there. 

If you do get to attend the preliminary round of Bengal Bouts (and I highly suggest you do), take a moment to appreciate not just the boxer whose hand is raised at the end of each fight, but also the boxer next to him. While boxing rules necessitate that we declare a winner at the end of each fight, no Notre Dame Boxer will ever be considered a loser. It takes a great deal of strength — and more importantly — courage, to step into that ring for a higher cause. 

Good luck Bengal Bouts Boxers.

Shakti, Shahosh. 

Dan Wilborn

Bengal Bouts Captain ’19, ND ‘19

Feb. 6

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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