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Bengal Bouts Vice President Thomas Edwards embodies mission through persistence and dedication

| Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Senior and former Knott Hall resident Thomas “Tex” Edwards has been serving as Vice President alongside senior Aidan “Ace” Becklund, an RA from Dunne Hall, for the 2022 Bengal Bouts season. Edwards has given much of his Notre Dame career to Bengal Bouts and exemplifies what it means to be truly dedicated to a cause. His story is one of persistence, resilience, and true heart.

The Houston, Texas, native began his journey with Notre Dame as a Gateway student freshman year, living at Holy Cross and taking a few classes at Notre Dame. His friend convinced him to check out Bengal Bouts one day, but the freshman Edwards was soon dismayed to learn that registration was not open to Gateway students. 

“When it came time to sign up on IM Leagues they said I couldn’t do it because of liability issues,” Edwards said. “So, I was like ‘alright I’ll see you guys next year.’” 

Despite the initial rejection, Edwards tried again his sophomore year, this time as an official Notre Dame student. With no boxing background and only some high school wrestling experience under his belt, practices proved to be very daunting for Edwards. Nevertheless, through sheer determination and support from upperclassmen, Edwards soon acclimated to the high-intensity environment. 

“Practice was really hard,” Edwards said. “But I learned that coming for the first day isn’t the hard part; it’s coming for the second, the third, the fourth, and the fifth. After time it all blends together and you’re able to stick through it. Practices became easier and I fell in love with the program. I really looked up to the captains, like Ryan Smith and Parker Revers, when I was a sophomore.”

Little did anyone know in these first few daunting days of practice that the quiet, yet hardworking kid would turn into a 2020 tournament champion. This moment, one Edwards considers his proudest, was a time where he truly was able to keep his foot on the gas and never let up.

“I remember when I first put my name down to actually be in the tournament I didn’t think I’d make it past prelims,” Edwards said. “I told my parents about it and they liked the idea of me fighting for something much larger than myself and I had told them how much I loved the camaraderie. So, they did love that but weren’t too keen on getting to watch their son get punched in the face. They wanted to come to the prelims, but I told them to not even come because I probably wouldn’t even make it past there.” 

Edwards certainly did make it past prelims, and all the way to the final round at that. In each bout, his opponent was a grade or two older. Though he weighed in the lightest in his 147-pound weight category, he emerged victorious after four hard-fought bouts. 

Edwards’ title sophomore year ignited a fire within him that not even COVID could stop. He continued to practice his boxing at home and aspired to become more involved with Bengal Bouts. 

“Ever since I won my sophomore year I never stopped training at all,” Edwards said. “When I went home, when we had COVID and everything, I went to the store and set up a water bag and just kept on training and never stopped.”

Coming back in his junior year, Edwards continued to attend practice despite the absence of a season-end competition. Bengal Bouts did not have an official tournament last year due to the pandemic, yet the club still held practices that were open to members. 

“It was always the same 20-30 guys at practice,” Edwards said. So I ended up getting close with all of those guys who had been there consistently.” 

This year, Edwards has taken on leadership and mentoring roles in addition to his own fighting. As Vice President and Practice Coordinator, Edwards has had his hands full managing the ins and outs of the club. It is all hands on deck for Edwards everyday, as he spends 20+ hours a week in the pit and deals with both administrative and physical tasks. 

“I’ve almost put school on the back burner because this is all I really care about,” Edwards said. “Alec and I spend a minimum of three hours a day in the pit and then spend another four hours a day outside emailing potential donors, organizing the tournament, reaching out to people and making sure they’re donating, selling tickets, and sending emails. It’s a lot of work but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t care for this club as much as I do.” 

Edwards’ fervent passion for the Bengal Bouts mission is obvious, as evidenced by his selflessness and willingness to devote the majority of his time to the success of the club. Edwards became especially connected with the mission through his interactions with Father Paschal Sarker, a Bangladesh Holy Cross priest serving as the main contact for the Bouts’ philanthropy. Edwards received an introduction to Father Sarker outside of the club, without even realizing it. 

“He and I ironically had a class last semester called the Irish Novel, so I knew Father Sarker but I didn’t connect two and two,” Edwards said. “One day he comes to practice and I’m told we are going to be working with him and essentially have him be the main guy for the missions in Bangladesh since he’s closer in proximity.” 

Edwards and the rest of the Bengal Bouts leadership quickly got close to Father Sarker and learned how much of an impact the club makes in Bangladesh. 

“You can raise an extra $300 and absolutely drastically change someone’s life,” Edwards said. “Just hearing it come from Father Sarker was very impactful and changed my approach to how I perceive this club. I always felt kind of awkward asking for money at first, but now I think of it like I’m just a proxy and channeling these donations for people that need it. That money means a lot more over there than it does here.”

Edwards remembers a particular time with Father Sarker last semester in which he and a few others went over to Moreau Seminary for dinner and Mass. The two found some common ground and made plans to reconvene after the Thanksgiving holiday.

“At dinner, Father Sarker and I started talking and somehow we got on the topic of hunting,” Edwards said. “I was telling him how, being from Houston, I hunt deer, and he was saying how he knows a good dish from Bangleish. He said he would make me a deal: ‘you hunt, I cook.’ So over Thanksgiving break I shot a deer then we shipped it up here and we went and had dinner over at Saint Mary’s with the Sisters from Bangladesh as well. We had a massive feast and hearing all their stories was indescribable.” 

Edwards was touched by the stories he heard from the sisters that night and found it valuable to hear about the missions from the people who directly witnessed them. 

“It becomes tangible when you hear it firsthand,” Edwards said. “The fact that all the effort, all the hours, all the donations all came to fruition that night, I was able to tell that we made a difference. Rather than just boxing, it became lives changed. That shifted my approach and I really locked in on getting donations.” 

Looking into the future after he leaves Notre Dame, Edwards recognizes the lessons that being a member of Bengal Bouts has taught him. Humility, persistence, and resilience, among others, are just some of the values Edwards will carry with him throughout life. 

“This isn’t a club for people with big egos or anything,” Edward said. “Also, persistence and being resilient are two things I’ve learned. I think that’s something that translates to anything in life: to be persistent and keep moving forward even when it is difficult, when you don’t want to, or when it’s hard. How to get hit in the face and forget about it the second after it happens.”

Edwards certainly admires his fellow boxers and has a deep appreciation for the club. In addition to his majors in Political Science and Economics and his minor in Constitutional Studies, Edwards has given his all to Bengal Bouts and looks forward to the upcoming competition. 

“This club means a lot to me,” Edwards said. “I’ve never been attached to something at Notre Dame more than this and there’s nothing that compares. It’s been the most rewarding and valuable component of my Notre Dame experience so far and wouldn’t have it any other way. This whole club, especially my sophomore year, gave me a sense of purpose when I needed it most. Fighting for something larger than myself and seeing that I’m making a difference is incomparable.”

You can catch Edwards and his fellow Bengal Bouts teammates in the ring starting with Prelims on February 24th in Dahnke Ballroom. Quarterfinals will take place March 1, followed by Semifinals on March 26 and Finals on April 1. All rounds will be live-streamed. Donate to Bengal Bouts and benefit the Bangladesh missions directly through a boxer or by visiting the Bengal Bouts Mobile Cause Page. 

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