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Posted: Thursday December 11, 2008 5:16PM; Updated: Thursday December 11, 2008 5:16PM

The real Fighting Irish

Story Highlights

At Nore Dame, female students take the "Fighting Irish" nickname very literally

59 of them participated in the Baraka Bouts boxing tournament this year

Both the men's and women's tournaments raise money for Catholic missions

By Dan Murphy, special to SI.com

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laura-szejka-p1.jpg
Laura "Rain Maka" Szejka (left) defeated fellow Notre Dame student Ashley "Shakespeare's Mistress" Ahn in this year's Baraka Bouts female boxing tournament.
Courtesy of Coleman Collins

When you hear about girls fighting on most college campuses, it tends to involve nasty gossip or cheating boyfriends -- but not at Notre Dame.

The ladies out in South Bend, Ind. apparently take the "Fighting Irish" nickname very literally. This year, 59 of them participated in the annual women's boxing tournament known as Baraka Bouts. The tournament started 12 years ago when student Aimee Buccellato decided the guys on campus shouldn't have all the fun.

Buccellato got the idea after the University told her she couldn't fight with the men's novice team, which has been around since Knute Rockne's days. Both the women and men use the tournaments to raise money for Catholic missions in Bangladesh and East Africa.

Buccellato is now an architecture professor at Notre Dame and remaines a huge advocate of the club. She may not lace up the gloves anymore, but her spirit has definitely carried over.

This year's president, senior Nicole "The Silver Bullet" Koors, and the rest of the captains pushed hard to make sure they got all the benefits the men's tournament does.

"I think we've made some big strides in the past few years," Koors said.

For the first time ever, the girls fought in the University Fieldhouse this Fall. The set-up included bleacher-seating and a professional ring. It wasn't quite Madison Square Garden, but it was certainly enough to get your blood boiling.

Fight night is just the tip of the iceberg.

The fighters gather in "The Pit" -- the basement of the school's basketball arena -- five days a week to train for the bouts. And they don't mess around.

"We usually start out running two or three miles, then back down stairs for calisthenics. We do a couple hundred push-ups and 1,000 sit-ups or so," senior captain Lauren "Strong Island" Cummings said.

That's just to get warmed up. Then the group, led by its captains, pairs off to work on technique for a few hours before ending with a little cardio.

Cummings has been fighting for the past three years and is 2-1 in her career in the ring. Koors also finished at 2-1.

The boxers fight one three-round match each year against a comparable-sized opponent -- except for one lucky lady this year. With 59 competitors, junior Kristen Burke, next year's president, got to fight twice on the big day. When's the last time De La Hoya fought a doubleheader? And, oh yeah, she won them both.

 
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