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Bengal Bouts looks to have successful season despite pandemic

| Monday, April 12, 2021

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the spring semester extensively so far, Bengal Bouts has still been practicing and supporting their mission statement in Bangladesh despite the pandemic restrictions.

Senior captain Dan O’Brien discussed how practice has been similar in some aspects even in the midst of the pandemic.

“Our mission is largely unchanged, which is to fundraise for the missions in Bangladesh, and while we’re doing it, to develop our boxers physically, mentally and to help them progress and develop their boxing skill throughout the season,” O’Brien said.

Despite these similarities, the pandemic has limited what the club can do in terms of physical contact and training sizes.

“It has been different this year. Abiding by University and RecSports guidelines, we’ve been practicing in much, much smaller groups,” O’Brien said. “The largest challenge that we’ve had this year is the distance. It is challenging to teach boxing and even to explain boxing well when you have to maintain 6 feet of distance. But to a certain extent, a lot of the technique that we cover, especially earlier on as far as stance, and explaining the basics of each punch, you don’t need contact.”

Junior captain Alec Vasquez explained the difficulties that the club has faced in engaging members and raising money for the mission statement in Bangladesh without an end of the year tournament.

Anthony Reo | RecSports
Tim Mikulski, left, dodges a left hook from Ryan Smith during the Bengal Bouts finals on Feb. 26, 2020, at Purcell Pavilion.

“Without that tournament, there’s a lot of motivation lacking, particularly among our veteran guys. And it’s just been tough to keep them engaged and to find something that they can build up to because we’re limited by what we can do,” Vasquez said. “It’s also been difficult to fundraise because our primary source of income and fundraising money comes through the tournament through selling tickets and having that hype around the tournament.”

O’Brien emphasized the importance of each individual boxer raising money.

“[The tournament is] where a lot of our donations come from. But where they actually come from within the tournament is the individual boxers who fundraise in anticipation of the tournament. So what we’re trying to do is basically maximize our membership, and maximize the engagement of the people who are participating,” O’Brien said.

He also stressed the importance of having an end of the year event to keep members motivated despite the tough workouts.

“Frankly, some of our workouts are just not fun, especially if you’re in your first couple years in the program. We design them to be unpleasant sometimes, and when you’re doing a lot of burpees, you need a reason to show up the next day even though you’re sore,” O’Brien said. “I think the mission in that regard is more than enough a reason to show up the next day. But for a lot of the guys that are like first years, second years in the program or maybe just haven’t been as engaged in the past, we want to give them something that they can look towards in the future.”

Some of the current Bengal Bouts captains were part of the last group of athletes to go over to Bangladesh in the Summer of 2019 before the pandemic began.

Senior captain Ryan Smith explained that they have used their experiences from the trip to motivate others that have not been to Bangladesh before.

“We have a wealth of experiences and pictures and media that we can show the guys that kind of keep them motivated,” Smith said. “We are able to kind of feed information and keep people up to date with how they’re dealing with the pandemic and how they’re dealing with some other things like they had flooding and national disasters to deal with over the past year.”

Senior captain Bo Heatherman discussed his experience in Bangladesh.

“For the first half of our trip, which is like five weeks, we were split up in pairs and lived the quiet village life out away from the city. And then they brought the four of us all back together,” Heatherman said. “Through our shared experience and shared suffering of that trip, we became best friends very quickly. And it was great to swap stories and recount everything that had been going on and that was really meaningful for me.”

Smith explained how the captains have been talking to Father Tom at Moreau Seminary to try to establish a better connection with the club’s mission statement on campus.

“Especially this year, Bo [Heatherman], myself, and Dan [O’Brien] have been really trying to establish a connection with the The Holy Cross Mission Center, which is across the lake at Moreau seminary,” Smith said. “[Father Tom] has been a really big help trying to build that connection on campus so that it’s not just the four of us that went to Bangladesh or a couple captains in the past that went overseas but really a more firmly established connection on campus that people can look to as a resource.”

Dan O’Brien shared that his favorite memory with the club was sticking around after his fight following his early round fight at last year’s tournament.

“The best part was having that sense of accomplishment not for myself but for all the guys that I cornered, all the other captains that I worked with and just the fact that the evening went the way it was supposed to,” O’Brien said.

Alec Vasquez described winning his first fight freshman year as his best memory with the club.

“It was the only fight that I’ve won, but I was cornered by two guys who were mentors for my entire freshman season, and they have really left an impact on me to this day,” Vasquez said. “After winning that fight or after any fight, everyone knows you’re exhausted and I just embraced both of them after the fight. And it was just a great feeling to know you’d been working up to it the entire season, so it’s probably one of my best memories.”

Smith’s favorite memory with the club was after winning his finals fight junior year. After losing his fight freshman year, Smith made a promise to his mom that he would win the tournament someday.

“It was the first time that she saw me fight since freshman year, and I won. The first thing I did was I ran down and I started crying in her arms and I just said, ‘I did it! I told you that I was going to do it,’” Smith said.

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About Nate Moller

Nate is a junior majoring in chemical engineering. He is originally from a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota and is currently living in Siegfried Hall. Some of his passions include running, cross country skiing, and getting too worked up about Notre Dame and Minnesota sports teams.

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