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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

Women's Boxing: Baraka Bouts prize service

The women who fight in Baraka Bouts are on a mission.
It's a mission to become better boxers and stronger people. It's also a mission to benefit Holy Cross mission work in Uganda. And the captains make sure the boxers know what is at stake.
"We focus on the improvement of the whole club, and always in the back of my mind is the missions," senior Baraka Bouts co-captain Liz Garvin said. "It really is the mission of Holy Cross in Uganda that keeps the girls unified and focused throughout the season."
The money the boxers raise and the proceeds from fight-night ticket sales benefit Lakeview Secondary School and St. Joseph's Hill Secondary School in Uganda.
The boxers' performances on fight night are important, but everything pales in comparison to the cause, Garvin said.
"We always have Fr. [Leonard] Olobo, who is one of the priests who is involved in the mission," Garvin said. "Every year, we take a practice for him to talk through the mission so we can better understand who we're helping. We talk it up in practice. We're not only an athletic club, and we talk it up in practice so they know service is the most important part."
Over the years, several boxers have participated in the mission work by traveling to Uganda, often in conjunction with a study-abroad program.
This summer, two captains traveled to Uganda to do service work and academic projects. Fifth-year architecture student and Baraka Bouts co-captain Jennifer Fitzpatrick explored the construction of schools and how to solve problems with one building's foundation. Senior co-captain Anna Heffron conducted research for her thesis on palliative care.
Fitzpatrick and Heffron shared their experiences with the team, and senior co-captain Anna Carmack said the constant dialogue keeps everyone aware of the mission.
The boxers also participate in several fundraisers, such as the Power 24 Hour in which the boxers exercise for donations from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. in front of South Dining Hall. The team raised almost $1,700 during the event in 2012.
Each boxer must individually raise money as well, which reinforces the meaning of Baraka Bouts, Carmack said.
"To participate, they are required to fundraise a lot of money," Carmack said. "Talking about it pretty often makes it very apparent in everything we're doing."
Garvin added that while the boxers work to benefit the missions, they also grow personally.
"They're not only improving their physical strength, but also for the majority of the girls, it's learning a whole new sport," Garvin said. "It's really fulfilling for me to watch the girls improve. Most of them have never thrown a punch in their life, and it comes to fruition in our fight night. We get to see their strengths."
The boxers put in a lot of time and grueling work at practice to get to fight night. Although boxing is a tough sport, it is rewarding, Carmack said.
"Most come from zero boxing [backgrounds]," Carmack said. "What we're looking for is that they'll put in the time. They have to attend at least four two-hour practices every week. It's not going to be easy, but they do a great job of getting in there. I know I had never boxed before coming to Notre Dame. It's a big first step, and they're always happy that they did it."
Garvin said her favorite moment comes when a boxer steps into the ring for the first time.
"My favorite part is seeing all of the surprises," Garvin said. "There's something about fight night because you can see a girl spar, but when she gets in the ring under the lights, she just transforms. It happens every year for a few girls. You take advantage of your one time to shine."
Baraka Bouts begin Monday at 6 p.m. in the Joyce Center Field House. Admission is $10 at the door.
Contact Samantha Zuba at