Joe Guilfoile - Finishing What He Started

Joe Bengal Bouts 2
             "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows in the end of the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."  -- The Man in the Arena -- Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship in a Republic"

The standing eight-count began, and he quickly tried to regain his bearings.  It was the hardest he had ever been hit, but he wasn’t ready to give up just yet.  He wiped the blood from under his nose, and kept fighting. It wasn’t necessarily about winning anymore; it was about not giving up.  Joe Guilfoile was going to finish the fight and finish it strong.

He remembers that first championship fight like it was yesterday – the split decision loss to a senior captain his freshman year.  And now, as the 87th Bengal Bouts Championship arrives, Joe knows he has only hours left before his third and final shot at the title Friday night. 

Joe is no stranger to the championship match.  During his sophomore year, he returned to the finals, only to once again suffer a split decision loss to another senior captain.  In spring of junior year, he studied abroad and could not compete.  Now he’s back in the finals once more.  And while Guilfoile claims it was luck that had gotten him so far each year, perhaps it was the driving force of a bigger mission.

“You get to see and hear the impact you are making throughout the year,” says Guilfoile.  “They always try to remind you of that. You have to keep in the back of your mind that it is a greater mission and we’re all fighting for the same cause.”

That cause is fighting poverty to improve the lives of the people of Bangladesh.  The University of Notre Dame strives to better our world near and far, and the Bengali community is at the top of the list for the Bengal Bouts.  This year, the club has set the ambitious goal of fundraising $200,000, which would be an all-time record.

Notre Dame tries to instill in their students that you can make a difference in the world, and I think Bengal Bouts is the epitome of that,” he says.  “The small group of us has made such a large impact.” 

As Guilfoile battles the delicate balance of staying calm but also preparing to fight, one can imagine the questions racing through his mind.  Will this be his year?  Will he finally take home the title as he departs in his senior year?  Or will his third time follow the same script, losing to yet another senior captain in the championship?  Although those questions won’t have answers until Friday evening, the question of whether or not this fight has purpose has already been decided.

“Right before you go in the ring, a priest [Fr. Pat Reidy, C.S.C., chaplain of the Notre Dame Boxing Program] comes over and says a prayer over you and the person you are about to compete against.  He reminds us that no matter what happens in the ring, we’re both winners because we’re fighting for all of the kids that cannot in Bangladesh.  For every punch, it comes with the name of someone you’re helping.”

On Friday night, Joe Guilfoile will be the ‘man in the arena’ one final time.  He will strive valiantly; he will dare greatly; and he will spend himself in a worthy cause.  He’ll be fighting to prove to himself that once again, it’s not about winning.  Rather, it’s about not giving up and finishing what he started.