Bengal Bouts: 1990s
By the time the 1990’s rolled around there seemed to be a growing interest in the Bengal Bouts, if measured by the number of participants. In 1991 there were 101 boxers that competed in the Bengal Bouts. To assist in this effort, Walt Rogers ’79 was “recruited” from Texas where he worked as an investigative reporter. Walt, a former president of the Boxing Club, attended Notre Dame Law School, and with all his “spare time” also coached the boxers and helped Tom Kelly and Rich O’Leary in putting on the Tournament.
On the boxing front, the 90’s were a strong decade. In 1992 seniors Kerry Waet and Mike Trainor both won their fourth consecutive Bengal Bout titles in decisive fashion in two upper divisions. And in 1994 Jeff Gerber would compete for and win his fourth consecutive title in a lighter division.
From 1992-1995, George Dohrman ’95 would revolutionize journalistic coverage of the Bengal Bouts while a staff writer and later Sports Editor for the student run Observer. In 1993, Dohrman stunned the campus with a fantastic, first-ever, four page, color insert to the widely read student newspaper that came out on Finals Night: and this came after a full week of detailed coverage of the three day intra-scholastic tournament! At that time in 1993, only varsity Football had received such journalistic coverage.
Strong student interest got stronger; and student attendance at the Bouts swelled. So too did the funds the Bengal Bouts were able to send over to the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh. Before the 1990’s ended, the Bengal Bouts Tournament and its patrons would send over $50,000 per year to the Missions. In large part this was due to George Dohrmann and successor sports journalists and photographers at the Observer and outstanding student leadership by Boxing Club officers such as John Christoforetti, Ryan Rans, Tom Will, J.R. Mellin, and a host of others.
The decade’s end would see a fantastic match up. Senior Brian Gaffney had dominated most every bout in his freshmen, sophomore and junior years. As a senior in 1999, talk of the historic fourth-consecutive title was everywhere around the campus media. On Finals night Brian Gaffney was matched against fellow Boxing Club officer, Mike Romanchek, whom he has beaten as a sophomore. In a tremendous display of sportsmanship and competitive spirit, Mike Romanchek took the decision from the ever-spirited Mr. Gaffney!
In that year, 1999, the Bengal Bouts Finals was the largest student attended athletic event at Notre Dame, save for men’s Football.