Insofar as aspiration requires courage, it would be hard to find a better example than Wharton’s Leeatt Rothschild. At five feet and two inches, she would have had trouble seeing the action from any row but the first. Yet she had a different problem when the referee signaled the beginning of bout four. Namely, she was in it.

In the absence of an official tally, it’s impossible to know if Rothschild threw more punches per second of combat than any other fighter of the night. Her rapid-fire, battering-ram approach to Elena Aidova’s belly made it seem like a strong possibility. She may have lacked Rocky Marciano’s deltoids or Mike Tyson’s dental attack, but Rothschild was a true swarmer.

Aidova’s response drove both the crowd and the referee wild: she simply grabbed Rothschild and threw her onto the canvas in the first round.

Duly warned, the law student went on to use her superior reach to fend off her smaller opponent, landing the occasional blow between Rothschild’s game charges. The bout ended in a bloodless split decision for Aidova, deadlocking the Wharton-Law tally at 2-2 in head-to-head competition.

The penultimate match pitted Wharton’s Adriano “The Bull” Blanrau against Springman. The engineering alumnus would be giving up 20 pounds to the big Brazilian, but had credentials to fill the gap. Springman was a two-time All-American wrestler as a Penn undergraduate.

Fight Night would give him a chance at a sort of crossover comeback. “It’s been about eight years since I competed. I’ve grown to miss that intensity,” Springman reflected afterward. “Pre-match, when you’re in that space where it’s just yourself, and you know you’re going up against an opponent, and it’s only the two of you out there … it really felt good.”

Blanrau gave him two and a half rounds to add to his recollections, but the ref called the bout for Springman ahead of the final bell. For the second year in a row, Penn Engineering’s lone pugilist notched a convincing win.

And just like that, it was time for what Donal McElwee had promised would be the spectacle of the night. “It’s the main event,” he’d declared at the outset.

“But you and your opponent are the smallest fighters on the entire card. What makes you the big draw?”

“Because I’m explosive. I can guarantee you I’ll be crowd-pleasing, and the guy I’m fighting is good.”

“Will there be small-statured men in your entourage?”

“We’ll see,” the 142-pound Irishman smiled. “It’s not as easy as you think getting those people on board. I’ve got my manager in charge of that. He spent many hours trying to get a hold of little people.”

To all appearances, that was more time than 149-pound Nathan Dyer had spent mapping his whole fight strategy. “Don’t get hit: that’s my strategy,” the Graduate School of Education student said in his dressing room. “If I don’t get hit, and I hit him once, I win.”

But appearances are deceiving. On the basis of a three-year-old press clipping, Dyer would be anything but timid in the ring. “In the only knockout in the first set of matches,” the Notre Dame Observer reported in 2006, “the referee stopped the fight in the second round to save freshman Jack Carroll from the beating he received from junior Nathan Dyer.”

If life were a boxing movie, McElwee and Dyer would have entered the arena towering over every man in it, and their battle would have ended in a come-from-behind knockout. But life is a bit weirder than that. And weirder still on Fight Night. Dyer ascended the ring clad in black shorts and quiet resolve. McElwee entered in a tartan kilt. Both men towered over two shamrock-covered members of the Irishman’s entourage, but the bagpiper was a head taller still.

The last bout went the distance. The fevered crowd no doubt wanted more. So when the referee raised The Lethal Leprechaun’s right hand in victory, bringing Fight Night V to a close, everyone in the Blue Horizon had a question to face:

Who’s ready to start training for next year?


May|June 09 contents
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Ultimate Fundraising Championship By Trey Popp
Photography by Candace diCarlo

Leeatt Rothschild rears back for a blow to Elena Aidova’s body.

Donal McElwee, right, with his entourage.

Rick Springman triumphs over Adriano “The Bull” Blanrau.


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Last modified 4/30/09