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Thursday, June 13, 2024
The Observer


‘We're all working together to make ourselves the best boxers possible’: Nicholas Buhay discusses leading Bengal Bouts

Nicholas Buhay's sophomore year was a big one for his involvement in Bengal Bouts. For starters, it was his first chance to actually compete in the tournament after COVID-19 limited the club to training and practice spars in 2020-21. But that was also the year when he was approached about being a captain in the club. Despite having known about Bengal Bouts since he was in high school, stepping into a leadership position in Notre Dame's largest student club wasn't something he'd thought about doing.

“That was mainly because I really love the sport. And not only do I love the sport of boxing, I love the community of Bengal Bouts. So I was at every practice, I sparred as much as I can get and, you know, after every spar and at every practice I was just trying to make friends,” Buhay said.

It may seem weird to highlight friendship when discussing a boxing club. But community is one of the main selling points that inspires hundreds of students to sign up for the 94-year-old club that draws electric crowds to Dahnke Ballroom and Purcell Pavilion to see students compete in the ring. Boxing may seem like a violent sport, and that's partially because it is. But technique and the art of being a good boxer are core tenets of the rigorous training regimen.

“We teach from the ground up every year as far as technique is concerned,” Buhay said. “So you know, first week we're just covering stance and basic movements. So, you know, I'd say it's probably the most boring week, but it's also the most important because that's setting the groundwork everything you do as a boxer. Every every year we start from the ground up, start from the basics and then advance. Most of it is just it's just building off knowledge that all the captains have gained from previous years.”

As president, Buhay has his hands in numerous aspects of the club. And there's a lot more than just stepping into the ring that goes into Bengal Bouts. The most important is the club's fundraising efforts. At the roots of Bengal Bouts is the goal of raising money for the Holy Cross missions in Bangladesh. Boxers are required to raise a certain amount of funds to be eligible for the tournament. And there are numerous ways Buhay and others go about helping those new to the mission understand the impact they have.

“We had two guys from our program be able to go to Bangladesh last summer and see the impact we're making there,” Buhay said. “So I think having those two guys be able to talk about the missions in Bangladesh as well as Father Tom who went to Bangladesh this past January. He came in last week to talk. I think having guys to tell stories about the Holy Cross missions there and the impact we're having is just a big motivator for every boxer in the club.”

According to the club's website, they have already raised over $180,000 before the start of the competition, about 65% of their $275,000 goal. Over 40 boxers have raised at least $1,000 on their own. Everything from ticket sales to advertisements to individual donations helps the club raise funds. Nearly 100 students are scheduled to compete in this year's tournament. Like in years past, the first two rounds take place in Dahnke Ballroom, with the finals moving to Purcell Pavilion. Having the opportunity to compete in front of friends and family is one all the boxers cherish, and Buhay has made his first two tournaments count.

“I competed sophomore year in the tournament and it went well. I ended up losing a split decision in the semi finals to the guy who would eventually win the whole bracket. Ultimately, I think that was really good motivation for me. I think what I took away from that loss was that as in good shape as I was, as athletic as I was, it taught me that I really needed to refocus on technique,” Buhay said. “Just going back to the basics. Coming in to the tournament again last year, I really just focused on basic things like perfecting my jab, perfecting my sense of range and really just working boxing technique. And then last year, I was fortunate enough to see that work pay off and I won the 160-pound bracket last year.”

But there's plenty to Bengal Bouts beyond the seriousness of its mission and competition. There are plenty of friendly and light-hearted aspects to the club as well. Each boxer has their own nickname announced as they step into the ring, with Buhay's being as creative as they get: Nick.

“I couldn't really think of a nickname and I just thought I thought it was funny just to kind of have like an anti-joke as a nickname,” he said.

On a more serious note, the camaraderie almost everyone in the club speaks about is real.

“One misconception is when people see two guys in the ring, a lot of people rather than seeing it as boxing, they see it as a fight. At least from my perspective, when I'm sparring, I'll be sparring my best friend. A lot of my best friends I've made from sparring,” Buhay said. “Everybody, when they get in the ring, they're working on boxing. You know, they're not trying to beat anybody up or get anger out in the ring. No, you're trying to perfect the sport of boxing ... I feel like the ring is almost like a catalyst for friendship, at least in my experience. I've made a lot of great friends in the ring.”

As an individual, Buhay has high hopes for his last competition. He'd love to go out on top and win another title. But that isn't his primary goal.

“I would say I'm less so focused on winning another jacket. More so just being the best boxer I can be. You know, I still have bad habits that I'm trying to perfect. So I'm trying to be the best boxer I can be. Honestly, really just looking forward to the bracket that I'm gonna be in. There are a lot of captains and really good veteran boxers that are around my weight ... I'm excited to compete with my friends."

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