Junior captains excited to lead tournament, raise money
Mannion McGinley | Wednesday, February 15, 2023
The Notre Dame men’s boxing club spent the last two semesters preparing for the 2023 Bengal Bouts Tournament. Among this year’s captains are five juniors Rob Rucki, Jack Lannon, Marcello Nanni, Nick Buhay and Mike Guyette. The five of them round out the 11-person leadership group at the head of the Bengal Bouts mission.
Each of the junior captains took a different path to find themselves a member of the men’s boxing club.
Rucki, known in the ring as “The VooDoo Ranger,” didn’t even originally want to go to Notre Dame. The management consulting major wanted to go to the Naval Academy but after one tour here, Rucki said he opted for Notre Dame and its Naval ROTC program instead. From there, Bengal Bouts fell into his lap.
“Some of the guys I looked up to in ROTC were Bengal Bouts guys and they were absolute studs, I wanted to be just like them. Yeah it was just a great opportunity to work my a** off, learn a new skill, get in front of my friends, do something really hard and raise money for an awesome cause,” he said.
For Mike “The Real Big” Guyette, Notre Dame was a dream that came true. The Keough Hall native got in off the waitlist but wasn’t sure what clubs he wanted to do once he got here.
Guyette started Bengal Bouts because his roommate was interested. Once they started though, Guyette said he quickly fell in love. One thing Guyette pointed out though was that he didn’t feel behind the eight ball having never boxed before.
“Something like 85 or 90% of people here have never done any sort of martial arts,” Guyette said. “But what allows people to fall in love with it is the fact that everyone here is just like a homie. Everyone here loves each other. It’s just great to have such a large group that you can see out and around and you’re like ‘that’s my brother.’”
Being chosen to be a captain was an “absolute honor” for Guyette who says he had been “grinding” all of his sophomore year and was floored to get the call from Jack Phillips at the end of last academic year.
Rucki also said he was proud to be chosen.
“It meant the world to me, it blew my mind, there’s a lot of awesome dudes out here,” Rucki said. “So it meant the world to be seen like that by the older guys I looked up to.”
Buhay also reflected on how rewarding being a captain is. He and Rucki shared how much the older guys taught them.
“Being able to pay that back,” Buhay said. “Leading by example and then technically working one on one with guys, complimenting what looks good, pointing out what they need to work on and helping them work on it … it’s an honor to be able to pay that forward.”
Originally from Atlanta, GA, Buhay resides in Dunne on campus. The summer after his sophomore year he was supposed to go to Bangladesh but COVID-19 threw a wrench in that plan. Still, in the planning for that trip, Buhay said he learned on a more personal level all about the importance of the work the club does.
“I got to talk to some of the veterans of the club who had already graduated by that point. They shared a lot of their experiences with me about over there,” he said. “Really, just being able to have some personal stories about how what we’re doing is making lasting impacts on people across the world, it’s just really powerful to think about that.”
Rucki said he wants to experience some of that more personal level of work himself.
“I wish more than anything I could get out to Bangladesh myself,” he said. “They just do amazing work over there, hundreds of thousands of mouths fed, people educated. We’re literally saving people’s lives one dollar at a time. We have an enormous impact. I can’t say enough good things about what we do.”
Buhay said it was gratifying to understand that the work the group puts into both fundraising and working in the ring is paying off at so many different levels. In terms of goals for the tournament, all three guys are excited to compete again. They’ve each only competed once as the competition was canceled during their first year on campus due to COVID-19.
Buhay says he has goals of his own but he’s also really looking forward to cornering for other guys, especially since he was abroad last semester and is still building relationships.
“I’ve only been here a few weeks but even in just those few weeks, I’ve gotten to know a few of the novice guys and some of the vets too pretty well,” he said. “I’ve been able to work with them and corner their spars so there are a few guys I’ve been working with and I’m excited to lead them through the tournament.”
The trio of junior captains should be five but they are missing teammates Lannon and Nanni who are abroad this semester and will ultimately miss the tournament. Their leadership was present last semester though as the men’s team’s captains helped to run the Baraka Bouts tournament and this included all the junior captains. Having seen several tournaments now, including the one he competed in, Rucki says he’ll lead by example during competition as he has all year. Still, there’s something more to the event now that he’s serving as a captain and a corner for his own guys.
“It’s awesome to see the guys you worked with all season come so far. I just want to see us raise a ton of money and watch the guys I’ve worked with kick a** and show off to their friends,” Rucki said.
Guyette said he’s excited for the club’s new guys to get in the ring for the first time. The electrical engineering major played football for a long time but he says boxing is competing on a different level.
“In a one-on-one sport, everyone’s looking at you and you get to showcase everything you’ve worked on and so it allows you to have your strengths exposed and your weaknesses exposed as well,” Guyette said.
“You show up and you have no idea what to expect,” Buhay said. That feeling, he says, is exciting to watch others experience for the first time and he’s ready to help them through it.