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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

Women's Boxing: Baraka Bouts fight night arrives

Tonight, after two months of training, conditioning and sparring, 72 women will step into the ring with pride on the line and kick off the 11th annual Baraka Bouts.
"Fight night is our chance to show all that we've been working on," senior captain Liz Garvin said. "When you're under the lights, you have to step it up a notch and show your friends and family everything you've been working toward."
One hundred seventy-five boxers registered in September, setting a club record. Over the following two months, the number of participants dropped as the intense time commitment and training took their toll. Boxers are expected to attend at least eight hours of practice a week, which, for many, includes learning how to box for the first time.
"We take it slow at first in instruction," senior captain Anna Carmack said. "The first week is just basic position, which foot goes in front of the other, and from there we progress. After two or three weeks we get into the ring and start shadowboxing with a partner to show them how to react."
At the same time, the boxers only have two months to get ready to fight. To make sure everyone is prepared, all fighters must spar at least three times to fight in the Bouts.
"It's definitely an accelerated program," Carmack said. "We try to get them in the ring as soon as possible. The best way to prepare is just to spar as much as you can."
Carmack and Garvin are both experienced fighters who have participated in the Bouts for several years. Along with other veterans, they help to mentor the newer fighters throughout the training process.
"We expect the novices to be at point zero [to start]," Carmack said. "When a veteran is sparring with a novice, we'll have them take it a little easier. It's a teaching moment, and we're all teammates. ... Besides, you would be surprised how quickly girls improve once they get in the ring."
This year, many of these inexperienced boxers are seniors coming out to fulfill a longtime college goal, Carmack said.
"It's kind of a bucket list item for a lot of them," Garvin said. "We start every year with a lot of new faces. ... Every year the program gets stronger, and more people hear about it and build up the courage to do it. It's going to be a great year. We have some great matchups. We've already sold over 1,400 tickets, so there will be a great crowd"
All of it comes to a climax Monday night in the ring. The winners from the first round of fights advance to the final round Thursday.
Both Garvin and Carmack described the fight-night experience as slightly terrifying, intense and exhilarating.
"Your adrenaline is pumping and you can't see anyone or hear anything outside the fight," Garvin said. "It's such a great, fun opportunity."
"Right before you go out there in your robe, the priest gives you a final blessing," Carmack said. "It feels like you're walking to your death. ... If you can get a group of friends there chanting your name, it's intense."
The opening round of the 11th-annualBaraka Bouts takes place Monday night, starting at 6 p.m. in the Joyce Center. Tickets will be sold at the door for $10 and benefit the Holy Cross charities in East Africa.
Contact Greg Hadley at