Growing up, we did not allow our son Michael to play flag or tackle football. Sam and I were concerned about the possibility of a debilitating head injury.
So when he arrived at college, Michael immediately joined the Notre Dame Boxing Club.
When Michael was young, my sister and brother-in-law gave him this poster as a birthday present. For years, it hung over his bed until he left for college.
The poster celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Bengal Bouts, an amateur boxing tournament held at Notre Dame since 1931. Front and center is the tagline for the entire program: Strong bodies fight, that weak bodies may be nourished.
When Knute Rocke coached in the 1920s, boxing was at the apex of the sporting world. Rockne believed boxing was the best conditioning workout for his players in the off-season. And so the Notre Dame football team boxed, competing in inter-hall tournaments on campus and intercollegiate matches with other universities.
Eventually the program morphed into an intramural offering and a tournament, called the Bengal Bouts, was started in 1931. It raises funds for the Holy Cross missions in what is now Bangladesh. In 2005, a sister program, named the Baraka Bouts, was started for women, benefiting missions in East Africa.
Bengal Bouts is a novel program and a true amateur competition, devoid of name, image, or likeness entanglements and free of NCAA jurisdiction. College age men of any ability can participate, provided they complete the training and raise the required funds. Imagine that: gathering donations for the right to step into a boxing ring for a beating. Perhaps this is Michael’s coping mechanism for growing up with six sisters.
Michael claims that the poster hanging over his bed inspired this undertaking. At least I have some relatives to blame. There’s a wonderful documentary about the history of the Bengal Bouts and the mission to fight poverty in Bangladesh.
If you want to watch the entire film, click here. It’s worth an hour of your time
Michael is in the best shape of his life. He passionately completes each day’s workout and trained hard over Christmas break. Here’s a typical day: Run 1 mile. Complete 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 squats. Run 1 mile. Do all of that as fast as you can. Michael completed that workout, grabbed Becky, and crashed on the couch for a long nap.
His appetite is likewise increasing to gluttonous levels. We recently grabbed lunch together, opting for some Greek street food. I have no words.
If you are inclined to donate to his cause, please follow this link. 100% of the proceeds go the Holy Cross missions. Monies raised put basic necessities like food and water into children’s hands in a country on the other side of the world. The missions also run vocational schools and orphanages with a strong dedication to education. The work is ongoing as the need continues to be great.
Michael’s first match is on Thursday, February 24. I figure there’s going to be an epic road trip for the event. It’s a single elimination tournament so he must win on the 24th to continue in the competition. The next fight would be on Tuesday, March 1, which happens to be Fat Tuesday. I relish the thought of being on campus for those quarterfinals and hopefully he progresses beyond that. If he’s going to take a beating, he might as well win. ESPN usually carries the tournament and I will post any live stream options.
I promised Michael that I will be in the arena. But I didn’t promise that I will watch. Most likely, I will be huddled under a coat listening for clues as to the outcome. Flashes of Rocky movies keep coming into my mind.
I admire his courage. I admire his dedication. I admire his drive to use his physical strength to help others.
Michael is a strong body.