‘Tim Tam with Hands of Ham’: Tim Leisenring reflects on four-year experience in Bengal Bouts
Hayden Adams | Thursday, February 13, 2020
Tim Leisenring is open about the fact that he disobeyed his mom when coming to Notre Dame.
“When I came to Notre Dame, my mom was like ‘definitely don’t do boxing,’ so it kind of has always been something I’ve wanted to do,” Leisenring said.
The four-year Bouts member and current treasurer from Pittsburgh had never boxed before college but, as many Notre Dame students do, decided to put some feelers out at the annual Student Activities Fair.
“My freshman year, I kind of just wanted to try something new,” Leisenring said. “It was something really different … I was going around on activities night and saw the boxing guys so I signed up. It was one of like, I don’t know, 15 different clubs I signed up for, but it was the only one I stuck with.”
From there, it grew into a passion.
“I guess I first really fell in love with it freshman year, just kind of pushing myself through something I never thought I could do before,” Leisenring said. “In addition to that, the mission was really important for me too. I didn’t really know much about Bangladesh, Bengal Bouts, really anything like that, I was just like, ‘oh, boxing club, that sounds cool.’ But over the course of the year the captains were really good at [fitting in] ‘we fundraise first, boxing club second,’ [that] type of thing.”
Proceeds from Bengal Bouts benefit Holy Cross missions in Bangladesh. Leisenring had the chance to travel to Bangladesh and see what Bengal Bouts means for the people there after his sophomore year.
“The American dollar goes a long way in Bangladesh,” Leisenring said. “I visited some schools that we started like 50 years ago, and now they’re self-sufficient. I thought that was really cool.”
Leisenring even got to get in the ring while at the Notre Dame College of Mymensingh in northern Bangladesh, which resulted in his favorite Bouts memory.
“Fr. George, who was the priest there, me and my site partner went to [their] people and he had this big, grand plan for this exhibition type of thing,” Leisenring said. “So he had [my partner] Sam and I basically throwing mitts and stuff in front of … a couple hundred people. It was pretty crazy.”
Like the hundreds of spectators who watched from school windows, roofs and tree limbs when Julius Erving played basketball in Rucker Park, Leisenring said the fans in Mymensingh acted in kind.
“They were all on roofs and hanging out windows and ten deep,” he said. “[Fr. George] was like, ‘alright, just go for it.’ We were like, ‘This is crazy.’ They were screaming and cheering — they had never seen boxing before — but they were just so into it. And then after Sam and I did our thing, Fr. George asked us to just hold mitts and stuff and kind of let the kids try.”
The best part wasn’t so much the admiration, Leisenring said, as it was the opportunity to share what he enjoys with others.
“I think sharing my passion with so many people — I mean, I didn’t speak very much Bengali at all, they didn’t speak very much English — but just breaking down that language barrier and sharing passion with each other across so many different cultural norms was something I’ll never forget,” he said.
The mantra for the Boxing Club is Śakti, Sāhasa, or “strength” and “courage.” Leisenring says these are very emblematic of the fighters, especially when they put their bodies on the line for people in another hemisphere.
“I do think those two words do mean a lot to the club, because you have this strength thing where you’re working out every day, but it does take courage to step in the ring and … fight someone,” Leisenring said. “And to stand across from someone who, we’re still on the same team and we’re trying to make each other better, I think the team aspect of a very individual sport means a lot to me.”
After his trip across the world, Leisenring remained in a sharing mood. He wanted to bring that energy from Bangladesh back to Notre Dame and to Bengal Bouts.
“I think a lot of the captains saw that, so they asked me to be a captain junior year,” Leisenring said. “I ended up being treasurer this year, my senior year, and the rest is history after that point.”
Not only is Leisenring a captain, but he is also a resident assistant (RA) in his dorm. He let some of his dorm mates have some small part in his Bouts.
“I let my section decide my nickname, so they came up with ‘Tim Tam with Hands of Ham,’” he said. “So yeah, that’s what we’re going with.“
Aside from being a leader in his dorm, Leisenring discussed what it means to him to be a captain in his senior year.
“For me, it means that I get to be the one that hopefully can influence some freshmen and sophomores that feel like [they] can take the mission in their hands and bring this club to the next level,” he said. “I like how the captains, especially from my freshman and sophomore year, who are really important to me … come back and watch the Bouts and stuff like that. I think it really mattered to me to see how to be a good leader. And I think, for me to be a captain, I want to be that leader for somebody else. I recognize the influence that they had on me and want to pay it back to someone else.”