Bengal Bouts concludes 90th year with Finals
Drew “Mr. Nice Guy” Niceley def. Danny “Smiley” Rogers
The finals began with a fight between Rogers, a junior from Zahm House and Niceley, an off-campus graduate student. Both fighters were a bit hesitant coming out of the gates, but Niceley managed to land some big punches early and keep Rogers on the ropes. Rogers fought back, though, and slipped a big punch to land some punches of his own. Both fighters settled down a bit right until the end of the first round where Niceley landed some more big punches.
“I just had to go in there, make sure I kept up my tempo. I wanted to make sure that I controlled the pace of the fight,” Niceley said. “Other than that, it was really just feeling what he was doing and trying to make sure that I matched it. He did a fantastic job, and I can not commend him enough on his skillset.”
To start the second round, both fighters came out swinging, but it was Niceley who connected early on. Rogers continued to be elusive and was able to slip some of Niceley’s punches and generate some momentum. Toward the end of the round, Niceley was able to seize back the momentum and land some big blows on Rogers.
Niceley had a noticeable height advantage over Rogers, which helped him land some jabs while keeping his distance.
“The height advantage definitely did help me,’’ Niceley said. “I have a little bit longer arm range, so I could hit him with a jab before he could connect pretty solid with any of his shots. I made sure that I used my jab to my best ability to keep him at a distance.”
At the start of the final round, both fighters were fatigued but Rogers connected with some big punches to start. Niceley responded in a huge way, though, and used a barrage of punches to force Niceley on the ropes at the end of the fight. Toward the end, it was clear that both fighters had run out of steam as they struggled to get much power behind their punches. In the end, Niceley controlled most of the fight and was declared the winner by split decision.
“This is a sport I never saw myself doing,” Niceley said. “This is my first year doing it. In high school, I played golf, so I really had no experience with anything close to what boxing was like. It feels great to come out my first year, put in a lot of hard work just like all the other guys, and see it pay off this evening.”
Thomas “Tex” Edwards def. Evan “Fringe Guy” Muller
Edwards, a sophomore from Knott Hall, and Muller, a junior in Zahm House, both got the second fight of the night started. Both fighters came out of the gates swinging, and Edwards landed some big punches early on. Muller held his own, however, and the first minute or so was back and forth for the most part. Toward the end of the round, Edwards defended well, which allowed him to finish the round on the attack. Muller was able to hang in there and land plenty of blows of his own as well.
After the fight Edwards acknowledged that he and Muller were very similar fighters.
“Usually in most of my fights, I analyze and watch film of my opponents, but Evan and I basically have the same skill set,” Edwards said. “We fight the same way where it is just all out.”
The second round began with Edwards flying out of the gate and going right after Muller. Edwards’ punches began to look like they had a bigger effect on Muller toward the end of the round, as Muller began to show clear signs of fatigue. Edwards had the momentum on his side throughout the second round, and he ended the round by another series of hard punches that forced Muller on the defense.
Going into the third round, Edwards had one goal.
“I kind of just emptied the tank and that’s about it,” he said.
In the third round, Edwards continued to exert his dominance, forcing the referee to give Muller a count early on. It appeared that Muller had no answer for Edwards’ punishing punches. It was clear that Edwards had dominated the fight, and he was declared the winner by unanimous decision.
Edwards never expected to win a finals match when the tournament began.
“Ever since the beginning of prelims, I never really thought that I would make it this far,” Edwards said. “I never really thought that I would get that involved with the club.”
The mission statement for Bangladesh and the motivating captains are two things that led to Edwards’ success.
“Ever since I became committed and started making practice everyday, and learning what the club is all about with the missions in Bangladesh, I sort of fell in love with it with all the guys in the club and all the captains. They have been major role models to me, and I have always looked up to them since the first day of practice,” he said.
Ryan “Short Stack” Smith def. Tim “Dirty T” Mikulski
The 148 pound weight class featured Smith, a junior from Morrissey Manor facing up against Mikulski, a senior from Duncan Hall. Both fighters came out of the gate a bit sluggish, but Smith was able to slip a haymaker from Mikulski and land the first big punches of the fight. Smith was once again able to land some big punches moments later, but this time Mikulski was able to respond and connect on some swings against Smith. As the first round commenced, it was clear that this fight was going to be a tightly contested battle.
Going into the fight, Smith knew the importance of not letting Mikulski utilize his length against him.
“I know Tim is a really good experienced boxer,” Smith said. “I knew he was going to use his length to keep me on the outside, so I tried my best to be patient and keep my hands tight in case he threw any long punches I was able to defend them. I was able to work inside and throw some hard shots when I could.”
Smith started the second round by connecting on some combos against Mikulski. He then managed to slip some of Mikulski’s punches and land some big blows to Mikulski. Mikulski was able to grab some momentum later in the round as Smith began to show some clear signs of early fatigue. As the second round drew to a close, both fighters engaged in some back and forth fighting, and it was still unclear who the winner was going to be.
“I feel like I had a really good second round, especially with the way I finished. I felt that I started figuring it out a bit and figured him out a bit,” Smith said. “He got a little predictable, so I was able to exploit that a bit. It was a really close fight either way. It was definitely never a sure thing in my mind, but the second round definitely stuck out as something that I really finished strong in.”
The third round saw Mikulski come out on the offensive, but Smith was able to defend well and avoid large blows. Smith grabbed some momentum at one point to land some combos and force Mikulski on the ropes. Mikulski was able to hang in, though, and with 30 seconds to go in the fight Mikulski went after Smith. As the fight ended, both fighters once again each landed some large blows of their own, and it was evident that this fight would be a tough one to call for the judges. In the end, the winner by split decision was Smith.
After the fight had ended, Smith was visibly emotional and explained that the victory meant a lot to him.
“This is everything. My first experience with Bengal Bouts was six years ago. My brother, who I gave a hug to, boxed for two years here. I got a chance to watch him as a freshman in high school,” Smith said. “When I got here, I knew I wanted to join this program and this great tradition. The last two years I have worked my butt off to be a champion. The fact that I did it means everything. This is one of the best moments of my life.”
Aidan “Ace” Becklund def. Lenny “Typhoon” Calvo
Becklund, a sophomore in Dunne, came out aggressive in this match, going straight for his opponent’s body but Calvo, a junior representing Keough, was quick to respond, shredding the body of Becklund. Becklund was able to land a couple of big headshots, but Calvo clapped back with some right hooks of his own that connected with the head of Becklund.
Calvo came out strong in the second sensing fatigue in his opponent. He quickly slipped through Becklund’s defense and bloodied his nose up pretty badly. Becklund was not down and out quite yet, though. He pushed through and eventually landed some shots of his own after the early round salvo from Calvo. After two rounds, it appeared Calvo had the advantage, and the bloodied Becklund would have to have a tremendous round to come away with a title.
But Becklund has fighting in his blood — his father, Vance, competed in the Bengal Bouts from 1987 to 1990. Thus, Becklund opened the third on the attack. He landed some heavy blows, and the two continued to go back and forth until about midway through the round, when Becklund unloaded on Calvo with a huge combo of hooks, landing to the head of Calvo and forcing the referee to pause the fight. Becklund retreated to the corner and waved his arms at the crowd in celebration as the referee checked Calvo’s headgear. This swing was sufficient enough for the judges to rule Becklund the winner by split decision.
Becklund spoke on his strategy and performance after the fight.
“My strategy was just staying out of range, when he came in to strike be active the whole time — give it my all,” Becklund said. “Lateral movement as well, I know that he likes to come in straight so I could move off to the side. There were a couple of things that I wanted to employ but I wasn’t able to just because there was so much going on, but overall I did most of what I wanted.”
He also touched on his huge third-round comeback he had to seal the decision and how much the title means to him.
“I was thinking about — I was like ‘I can’t lose, there is no way I’m losing this bout,’ so I just went into it with everything I had. Those last 10 seconds I could barely breathe and I just kept going and going,” he said. “It means the world. Part of it is [that] my dad did the Bengal Bouts, and he was very good, so I knew I had to get at least his record or better, and so far we are on the right track, so it meant a lot to me.”
Johnny “The Missing” Link def. “Cool Hands” Luke Fraser
Both fighters came out hungry for blood in this 161-pound final. Both fighters clashed in the center ring to start the action. Link was patient with his attacks and retreated at the right times. With several left-left-right combos and then unleashing a flurry of hooks on his opponent Link was able to force Fraser against the ropes on several occasions in the first round. Fraser, a junior in Alumni Hall did manage to give Link a taste of his own medicine on one occasion, but Link ultimately remained dominant through the first.
Link, a senior captain representing O’Neill Family Hall forced Fraser against the ropes once early in the second, but Fraser flipped it around and soon Link was fighting with his back to the ropes. Despite this early exchange, Link would recover and it was he who found himself forcing Fraser to the ropes as the bell to conclude the second round rang.
Fraser opened the third and final round as the aggressor but he was too far behind at this point of the fight. Link gave Fraser everything he had left in the third and final round bullying Fraser against the ropes on several occasions. For his effort Link was declared winner by unanimous decision. Later in the night, Link was also awarded the Bengal Bout award for the best boxer in the tournament.
Link spoke on his performance after the fight.
“It was difficult mentally in terms of preparation just because I knew I had one more fight left in my Bengal Bouts career,” Link said. “Especially after taking a year off to go abroad and coming back realizing how much I missed this club — this sport. … At first, it was just about getting over that mental hurdle and telling myself that I need to own the moment and enjoy it so as soon as I started to approach it with a smile on my face, I realized I could just take the moment.”
He also said he was more proud of the club’s accomplishments than his own victory in the ring.
“Honestly, it sounds corny but I’m more excited about everything the club was able to accomplish this year,’’ Link said. “The number one priority was to blow fundraising out of the water, given that it was the 90th year. What we thought about every day and what I pretty much texted Parker Revers, the president, about every day is how we would hope to honor the 89 years of boxing that came before us.
“Our fundraising numbers were through the roof, I couldn’t be more proud of the guys and how hard they worked, I had a blast corning everyone. I’m glad that this worked out as well, but I’m really just more thankful for the experience that the entire club was able to have.
Link also touched on winning the Bengal Bouts award.
“Completely unexpected,” he said. “I sort of always thought of myself — early on in Bengal Bouts career — freshman, sophomore year — as sort of a brawler, a guy that just liked to scrap. I took a step back this year and realized that I needed to add in some more technical skills.
“I can’t thank some of the guys enough who worked with me. Matt Gelchion, who works with the University, Taylor Vucinich, who’s a senior captain who wasn’t able to compete this year. All the other coaches that were able to help me out, develop some skills to actually become a little bit more of a boxer, so I’m just in complete shock right now to be honest.”
Kyle “Nemo” Mettler def. Pat “Good Guy” Rafferty
Both fighters came out swinging early, but both were failing to land as their defensive sensitivity early on was far too heightened. Mettler, a junior in Alumni, slipped after the senior from Duncan, Rafferty landed a couple of hooks, but this would not result in any deduction of point for Mettler. Mettler was clearly frustrated with the trip, as it meant that Rafferty was fighting with a slight advantage after this, and he would go on to get the better of Mettler in the remainder of the round. Mettler was fighting with his back to a corner as the bell to conclude the first round ended.
Mettler played it cautious in the second, not wanting to risk another slip perhaps, and kept his opponent at bay. Mettler retreated at the ideal times and put pressure on his opponent at the right time; even so, on two occasions in the second the ultra-aggressive burst of attack from Rafferty forced him against the ropes.
Mettler landed one to Rafferty’s head to start the third and final round, and he was able to keep the pressure on landing a few big right hooks and a couple left jabs mixed in for good measure.
As much damage it seemed Rafferty was being dealt, he would always bounce back. He landed a few blows back on Mettler, but ultimately it would not be enough, as Mettler, with his patient and controlled fighting style, was declared winner by split decision. Mettler came just shy of winning a title last year in a dogfight of a match last year between him and then-senior captain Michael Feijoo, where Feijoo was declared winner by split decision. Mettler spoke on his victory after his fight.
“I just felt really confident in the work I put in, so I just wanted to stick to what I’ve been drilling in the last few weeks,” Mettler said. “My defense has been feeling a lot better, it was definitely a defensive focus against him. I knew he was going to put a lot of pressure on me, so I had a big focus on keeping my hands up, using my blocks, slips and just controlling the center of the ring.”
Mettler also touched on how much it means to come into the season as a captain and close it with a title.
“You try not to get emotional. I just put in so much work, I felt like it was my time. Last year I came so close, and this time I just wanted it so bad. It just felt like everything paid off in there. I had a strong performance under a lot of pressure, so it just was amazing.”
Parker Revers def. Luke Slahor
Slahor, a freshman representing Duncan, was able to land some early shots on his senior captain Revers, who lives off campus. However, Revers was well-covered when Slahor was on the attack, forcing him to connect with his gloves instead of Slahor’s desired target, his head. Both fighters remained calm through the first, and the bout appeared to be a deadlock at the end of the round.
Slahor was able to land some big hooks in the second round, but Revers was quick to respond, forcing Slahor against the ropes on occasions in the second. Revers came out as the aggressor in the third and final round but Slahor countered back.
They battled back and forth in the third, but by the time the bell to conclude the fight ended, both fighters were too tired to continue swinging and instead embraced each other and had the referee separate them only to embrace once more, and finally one more time after the competition was over. Revers was declared the winner by unanimous decision. Revers spoke about his strategy following his victory.
“The goal was to bring it into some deep water,” Revers said. “I’ve been working on my cardio this whole season. I just know that if I apply a pretty consistent pace the first and second rounds, then the third round should be mine. It worked, but that being said Luke was super tough and gave it his all the third round.”
Revers said winning the title as president of the club means a lot to him.
“It means so much,” he said. “I mean, you see the competition aspect, but the amount of behind the scenes action and the amount of training we do for the club — our organization with 200-plus guys that work with us, with Baraka Bouts — it is the equivalent of a full-time job often, so to end it like this is superb.”
Dan “Pilgrim” O’Brien def. Chris “tmas” Lembo
The first round was an action-packed one, as defending 173-pound champion and junior captain from St. Edwards Hall, O’Brien came out firing against fellow senior captain Chris Lembo. Lembo, representing Dillon Hall, responded with a series of his own hooks and jabs, but as the round progressed, O’Brien gained position and kept Lembo on the ropes, which fit each boxer’s respective styles.
“I like to march forward, and he’s very comfortable on the ropes. He has a very strong cross, and he likes to counterpunch,” O’Brien said after the bout, “My mentality was sticking with what I was comfortable with and not walking into his cross.”
Lembo entered the second round needing something a little extra to get his way back into the bout, and he had it early, connecting on a few blows, but O’Brien kept Lembo pinned in the corner, and he eventually turned his strong position into a series of hard jabs that had him in control heading into the third round.
With two strong crowds from their respective dorms providing a raucous environment, both fighters came out swinging — O’Brien looking to secure a victory and Lembo looking for some decisive blows. The Dillon Hall senior landed two hard shots early in the round, showing impressive fight. O’Brien was extremely complimentary of his fellow captain and finals opponent.
“He’s a phenomenal boxer, and the best teammate.”
However, a miracle comeback was not to be, as O’Brien rallied back with his signature thundering right hook. The blow temporarily sent Lembo to his knees, and although he bounced back up, the referee stopped the contest, handing O’Brien a second consecutive Bengal Bouts title.
Luke “Big Chunky” Sheridan-Rabideau def. Greg “Yellow Cat” DeFalco
In a young final featuring a sophomore in Sheridan-Rabideau and a freshman in DeFalco, it was the Alumni freshman who came out swinging and getting the early jump in the 182-pound final. The two boxers tied each other up multiple times throughout the round, and neither fighter gained a significant advantage, but “Big Chunky” landed a big blow on his opponent right before the first bell, much to the pleasure of his hall mates in Kennan.
The second round began with “Big Chunky” seizing his momentum from the first round and slamming DeFalco off balance with a series of combinations.
“I love swinging, but I needed to keep it under control and tried to stick to a plan,” Sheridan-Rabideau said after the bout.
After the referee stopped the match briefly to check on DeFalco, the Keenan sophomore unleashed another series of big blows, punctuated by another brutal right hook that forced another pause in the bout. The referee restarted the bout one more time, but another brutal combination from Sheridan-Rabideau dazed DeFalco one more time, forcing the referee to stop the contest and ending the freshman’s valiant run to the finals. When the referee announced the result, “Big Chunky” responded with a roar and fist bump, garnering a massive response from a strong Keenan contingent.
“It means the world to win,” Sheridan-Rabideau said. “So many incredible people put in a lot of work this year, and I’m so appreciative to all of them.”
Will “Manly” Hanley def. Sam “The Hammer” Miller
Facing a freshman opponent, Hanley, a junior, decided on an extremely aggressive approach out of the gate, as he pushed Miller all over the ring, but the St. Edwards freshman was able to keep his hands high and avoid giving up any decisive blows, but it was “Manly” clearly in control of the pace and landing most of the punches.
“I came out really hard in the first round, and then I tried to cool it off and work more tactically,” Hanley said after leaving the ring.
After attacking with a fake left followed right jab most of the round, Miller landed a strong blow at the end by attacking with a straight left jab that caught Hanley off guard, and kept the match relatively level after one round.
As the second round progressed, it became clear that Miller would need to maintain long periods of strong defense, and land some counter punches when possible. He followed that recipe to the letter in the middle period, taking one powerful right hook but largely dancing and evading his way out of trouble. “The Hammer” fought back with back-to-back right hooks and then a quick left jab, but the freshman then retreated back on defense, keeping his hands high while the taller Hanley probed for a gap. The second bell sounded, and the fight progressed to the third round with the result very much in doubt.
Hanley seemed to feel a need to make a statement early and he came at Miller like a bull to start the third round, landing some strong body blows in the early stages. The Stanford Hall junior maintained that strategy, staying low on Miller and delivering powerful jabs into his ribs. Miller responded well defensively, but he struggled to land any more significant blows before the bout ended.
Despite the hotly contested bout, Hanley claimed a victory by a unanimous decision. He spoke to the dedication it took to make his way to the finals.
“It shows me that I can do a lot more than I thought I was capable of,” he said.
Matt “Money” Cyrs def. Kevin “The Wild One” Sanchez
The match looked like it was going to have a quiet first round. And then, with one thundering hit, the bout was over. until it wasn’t. Cyrs, a senior in St. Edwards took a hard blow early, but he responded well with some defensive adjustments.
“I got hit hard right in the face quickly, and it was a reminder to adjust my defense, tighten up my gloves,’’ Cyrs said. “Once I did that, I felt better.”
After a lot of dancing, feigning in and out, Cyrs sent Sanchez, a off-campus graduate student, spinning into the ropes with a thundering right hook to the side of his headgear.
“I just tried to utilize my jab to create space and look for any openings with the hook,” Cyrs said on his strategy after the bout.
After an extended pause, the referee deemed the contest over and declared the Cyrs the winner after barely 30 seconds of boxing. Cyrs was ecstatic after the victory.
“When I came to Notre Dame, I knew this was one of the things I wanted to do, so to win the finals as a senior,” Cyrs said. “I need some time to let it sink in, I’m still speechless”.
Ali “Mega Chungus” Thomas Jr. def. Fr. Nathan “Last Rights” O’Halloran
Defense was optional in the first round of the heavyweight battle between O’Halloran, supported by fellow grad students and Holy Cross priests, and Thomas, who was spurred on by a small but vocal crowd from Duncan Hall. With both fighters landing blows seemingly every second, it was difficult to discern who was creating an advantage. “Last Rights” used his longer reach to pound his opponent from the outside, delivering large quantities of body shots. “Mega Chungus” responded by finding a few jabs and hooks around and between the gloves of “O’Halloran,” before the bell ended the wild first round.
After a calmer start to the second round, the Duncan Hall representative pounded O’Halloran, the off-campus alumnus into a corner, but the priest was able to fight his way off the ropes before taking a jab to the headgear. “Last Rights” responded in kind with a strong combination that was punctuated with a strong blow that sent Thomas bouncing off the ropes. However, before the second bell sounded, “Mega Chungus” regained his momentum with a pair of thundering right hooks that landed squarely on his opponent’s headgear, giving him a slight advantage heading into the third round.
“I was trying to be strong defensively, take the center of the ring, and outlast him.” Thomas said. “The first two rounds were very close, but I ended the second round strong and had a strong third round, knocked him down a couple times.”
Thomas came out aggressive in the third round, and O’Halloran was forced to backpedal quickly, losing his balance and falling the mat. However, he quickly got up and came back strong with a series of jabs. However, “Mega Chungus” demonstrated impressive endurance, and he picked his spots well, twice more forcing his opponent into the corner. Although O’Halloran kept his hands high, it was all he could do to finish the round without surrendering a massive blow. Thomas talked a little about his training regimen that allowed him to maintain his energy throughout the round.
“I’ve been training for four years, but I finally got that champion’s jacket,’’ he said. “I tried to add more cardio and lifting, and I joined the cheerleading team my junior year, which helped me gain some muscle, and get more in shape.”
Ultimately, Thomas claimed the victory via unanimous decision, his strong and consistent performance earning him the heavyweight title and concluding the 90th Bengal Bouts Finals.