Jack Considine & Pat Gordon - Walking into The Pit, Entering into a Brotherhood
Jack Considine, Two Time Defending Champion & President of Bengal Bouts & Pat Gordon, Defending Champion & Bengal Bouts Captain
I’m in a pit. It’s actually called “The Pit,” and by the look of the place it makes sense. There are ripped punching bags and hand wraps laying haphazardly in the corner. There are no windows in any of the walls. One wall holds fifty or so pairs of gloves, while another holds up a mirror in which a student is shadow boxing, breathing as if he’s in Lamaze class.
I make my way through the old black and white photographs adorning the opposite wall. Here I see images from the very first Bengal Bouts and a photo of boxing great Tony Zale receiving the first University of Notre Dame Bengal Bouts Recognition Award alongside photos of children in Bangladesh.
I’m jolted back to reality when a tall muscular guy in a Team USA Boxing t-shirt walks through the door. He makes his way through a dozen other young men preparing for practice, giving them all high-fives and asking how they’re doing. I realize quickly that this is the guy I am here to see.
His name is Pat Gordon. Of course, everyone in here already knows his name. Pat has descended into The Pit almost seven days a week since he was a freshman at Notre Dame. This is where he met Jack Considine.
Jack, also very tall, arrives to practice wearing jeans. Ironically, this is where their story began three years ago.
“He asked me to borrow a pair of sweatpants,” Pat recalls. “He’s known to be forgetful when it comes to bringing a change of clothes.”
The two laugh at the memory in a very “the rest was history” kind of way. But Pat tells me he’d already had a first impression of Jack prior to that exchange.
"We've gotten to be pretty darn good friends."
“My friends told me, ‘Watch out for that guy: he’s tough, he’s a beast,’ and right then I knew I wanted to spar with him.”
Pat got his wish that year when he faced Jack in the ring. They were battling for the championship title after Pat accomplished the unthinkable in his semifinal fight: a freshman defeating the Notre Dame Men’s Boxing Club President, who also happened to be the defending champ.
Jack recalls, “I saw his face when they raised his arm and that’s when I said, ‘That’s the guy who gave me the sweatpants.’”
As I listen to the now junior and senior boxers talk about their first bout, I can’t help but notice the respect they have for each other not just as boxers, but friends.
“I’ve never had someone push me to the point of physical exhaustion before that. He’s the toughest fighter I’ve ever fought, no doubt about it.”
And it seems to be the only fight that Jack can vividly recall.
“I remember coming after Pat and I threw two punches, and I got hit with a ‘two,’ and then I realized he could throw hard punches.”
At the end of the three rounds, Jack’s arm was raised -- the winner of a razor-thin split decision.
“It’s much easier losing to someone who you know works hard and is a good person,” Pat said. “I had no problem losing to him.”
“Boxing is the one thing I care about. Having a loss in that is brutal, but it was to a fantastic boxer and an even better human being. Going forward we’ve gotten to become pretty darn good friends.”
"The real fight is going on in Bangladesh."
We’re sitting across from The Pit now as their classmates and fellow boxers walk into practice. Many of them stop to wave or offer their well-wishes and a “good luck” for the Bengal Bouts Championship fight on Friday. It is clear that these two captains have earned the respect of their teammates.
“As boxing club president, I felt like I had a lot more on my plate than I could handle. I always felt like I could text Pat and he would be there as a partner and fellow-leader. I don’t think there has been a day this season that we haven’t been discussing something we wanted to do related to the club. It instantly turned into a teamwork aspect.”
That partnership will come in handy when Jack passes the title of president on to Pat for the 2017-2018 Bengal Bouts season. They tell me about the pressure of the job and its role for the younger boxers in the club.
“What I realized is that people look up to you a lot more than you think and more than you deserve,” confides Jack. “It’s crazy how valuable one little message is to a freshman just learning to box.”
Then Jack and Pat share with me what that message is.
“We train year-round to fight in the finals which is six minutes, and we think that six minutes of fighting is a big deal.” Pat continues, “In reality the real fight is going on in Bangladesh. That’s not a six minute fight, that’s their whole lives.”
The Bengal Bouts boxing tournament serves as an annual fundraiser for the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh, providing healthcare and education to some of the world’s poorest. In its 87 years, the Notre Dame Men’s Boxing Club has sent $1.8 million to the missions, funding the building and operation of primary and technical schools as well as health care clinics and various outreach programs.
Friday’s Championship event will be the culmination of an ambitious monetary goal for this year at $200,000, which would be an all-time record. To reach this goal, they’re counting on the people in their corners. Pat describes what that support feels like.
"When you get in your corner and you train year-round and you fight, and you sacrifice so much and you’re so vulnerable up there…you’re just so raw and regardless of that, half your dorm is there to support you, and that type of brotherhood you can’t get anywhere else. It means the world to us, but what tops it all off is the impact it has on the mission.”
And then his smile widens a bit.
“Having people support you in brotherhood and all your struggles and hard work paying off and fighting for those kids in Bangladesh. To me, that is everything that Notre Dame stands for.”