Bengal Bouts: 1980s
Another talented Bengal Bouter won his fourth consecutive title in 1980: Boxing Club President, Tony Ricci. Nine years later Boxing Club President, Mike Noone, would win his fourth consecutive title in 1989.
Though the strong Bengal Bout tradition continued, there were some transitions as well. After his “retirement” Nappy continued as the Bout Director. Tom Kelly became Director of Non Varsity Athletics, a post Nappy held for so many years. Rich O’Leary and Rich Hunter helped the Bouts and Nappy in many ways, but also acted as the Bouts Promoters. Tom Suddes and Mike Suddes took on more active roles in coaching as they both lived in South Bend and were well “trained” by Nappy. Leo Latz ’80, honorary Bengal Bout Alumni, did an outstanding job of ringside journalism at the Bouts as a member of John Heisler’s Sports Information team from 1976-1980.
Under the leadership of Tom Kelly and Rich O’Leary, the safety program of the Bengal Bouts became more formalized. Formal medical review and medical examinations of each of the participants were required. With the advent of more teams using the ACC in the 1980’s, the Bengal Bouts Tournament moved to Stepan Center where standing room only crowds saw the Semi-Finals and Finals. In another decade more athletic facilities would be built for football, tennis, and track, which would allow the tournament to be returned to the ACC, now appropriately named the Joyce Center. Fr. Ned Joyce, C.S.C. was a close friend and contemporary of Nappy and a Bengal Bout Award recipient in his own right.
Nappy died a few weeks after Finals Night of the 1986 Bengal Bouts. Flanked by all the Bengal boxers, Nappy’s family and hundreds of friends, fellow coaches and University officials, Fr. Ned Joyce C.S.C. gave Nappy’s eulogy at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Nappy truly had run the good race, he had fought the good fight, and instilled in over a thousand young men and boxers, the positive ideals of amateur sport and the need to support the poor and those less fortunate – – even though they be in other distant lands.
In the late 80’s there were other Bengal Bout alumni who helped carry on the tradition of the program. Sean McCormick and Andy Panelli helped with coaching and promotion. Roland Chamblee, now Judge Chamblee of South Bend, worked one corner with Andy Panelli in the other; and Tom Suddes and Terry Johnson were the referees after veteran ref George Van Der Heyden retired. George was a long time friend of Nappy’s and served as a Bengal Bout referee for over 40 years.
Bengal Bout Alumni, Kent Rowe, Prof. Frank Reilly, Bob Mohan and Mike Latz, among others, served as judges during this time.