Baraka Bouts began competition at Notre Dame 20 years ago, as a women’s version of Bengal Bouts. The women who have competed have shown that their boxing tournament is just as important as their counterparts’, and now the current leaders are looking to build on these strides even more.
Cece Giarman is a senior double major in Marketing and American Studies. She is also the vice president of the Notre Dame’s Women’s Boxing Club. After joining the club four years ago as a freshman, Giarman said she is excited for her final year in the ring, and her final opportunity to make an impact on a program that has been so influential on her life.
Arriving on campus, Giarman knew that she had to get involved in some athletic club and a senior family friend pointed her towards boxing.
“I’ve always been a part of a team, so coming to Notre Dame without that idea of you know playing a sport with something I was hesitant about just going to college and I was really lucky to find [it] in Baraka,” she said.
Like most members of the club, Giarman had never boxed before, but soon grew to love the layers of challenge that practicing with the team provided.
“I’ve always been really into fitness and sports, but the reason I stayed was more than just that physical challenge. It really [is] this trifecta I would say of that physical challenge that comes with boxing, that comes with training for a new sport that I’ve never engaged with, but then going with that mental challenge that’s totally unique to boxing,” Giarman said. “Boxing is very disciplined in a unique way compared to other sports, it’s really about a mix of confidence, but also humility that I had never seen before.”
Although she chose not to compete during her freshman year, it just made her more excited to enter Baraka Bouts as a sophomore. Unfortunately, that tournament was, of course, canceled because of the ongoing effects of the pandemic.
Last year, she was named one of the junior captains, the first captain in Baraka Bouts History who had not previously sparred or competed in the tournament. She recalls the training and preparation she did in the years before her first round in the ring and remembers always being challenged, but never being put in a position where she or anyone else would get hurt. This trust that was built between her and the coaches, and with herself, gave her confidence during the tournament last year, where she won all three rounds.
“There was a lot of pressure in the sense that my junior year was helping freshmen girls, sophomore girls, whoever, go through their first spar, and I hadn’t even been in the ring yet and I felt like this impostor. Like wow, I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if I can lead this club when I feel like I don’t actually know that much,” Giarman said. “But you know [more than you think and ] I think that’s something we really tried to make sure every boxer feels because we never will put anyone in a position that they’re not ready for.”
This year, the team has a goal of $75,000 that will go towards building student dormitories for Holy Cross Lake View Secondary and St. Joseph Hill schools in Uganda. Last year, the money raised went towards faculty housing to help retain teachers in an area that is not always safe or easy to travel and as an additional incentive to stay. This year, the funds raised will help build dormitories, which is why some students wouldn’t be able to attend school.
This mission is of personal importance to Giarman. Charity, specifically in Uganda, has always been a big part of her educational experience.
“In my elementary school, we also did fundraising for [a] Ugandan elementary school, so for me it’s kind of full circle that I’ve been able to feel connected to that part of the world since I was in Kindergarten.”
For the ‘Ginja Ninja’ (her nickname is a reference to Giarman’s red hair), the dedication to this cause and team has had really positive effects in all areas of her life, and is a constant reminder to always be grateful for the position she is in and the opportunities in front of her.
“I think it really puts in perspective how even on the worst days maybe I’m feeling down because of you know physically I’m sore or I got a test score that I thought I should have done better on or, you know, just general stress to have in college. It really puts in perspective how lucky I am that I get to force myself into that struggle. I have the choice to push myself and I have the choice to, you know, be sore and be stressed about certain things that some people don’t have the opportunity to,” Giarman said. “Putting myself through that mental, physical and emotional challenge is a privilege in and of itself and honestly just makes you want to work so much harder. I think it’s transferred itself to my studies and to the way I approach my relationships with friends just remembering that there’s a lot to be thankful for. If I can be a part of spreading the word about a goal of fundraising that can help change people’s lives and positively impact others, regardless of where they are or who they are, [I will be thankful].”
Going into the tournament next week, Giarman would like to remind the entire campus to come out and support their classmates in the ring. The men’s boxing team has always been very supportive of the women (they each volunteer at the other’s tournaments), but Notre Dame community members don’t always show up to support Baraka Bouts as they do for Bengal Bouts. This is something that Giarman hopes to see change in the future.
She already sees progress. Long time supporters of Bengal Bouts have started to come to the women’s tournament, and some alumni have even commented that they enjoy watching how much the female boxers listen and take advice from their corners. Additionally, the number of women in the club has continued to grow, even after the pandemic, showing how much excitement Notre Dame has for Baraka Bouts.
As she enters her final tournament, Giarman is ready to show what she has learned during her time with the team.
“Ultimately, [Baraka and this team is] really about that self-empowerment that you find by intentionally challenging yourself, intentionally putting yourself in situations that you aren’t necessarily confident in and then finding that confidence in simply participating regardless of how it turns out.”
Contact Annika Herko at email@example.com