Boxing at the U.S. Naval Academy dates to the end of the Civil War, and to this day, every plebe takes a mandatory boxing class.
It’s a unique tradition among Maryland universities and one the academy celebrates every February with a grand intramural showcase of its best fighters that’s open to the public. Midshipmen compete in three-round fights across 10 male and three female weight classes. The winners qualify for subsequent regional tournaments but perhaps more importantly, they come away with bragging rights at an institution built on competition and physical toughness.
Only 20 fighters in the 76-year history of the competition have won four Brigade Championships.
Though the tournament doesn’t receive the same widespread attention as say, the annual Army-Navy football game, the event is a major one on campus, attracting an enthusiastic crowd of midshipmen, alumni and parents to Alumni Hall.
“We use boxing as an opportunity to create an environment in which midshipmen have to think and react under fire or stress,” the academy’s longtime head boxing coach, Jim McNally, once said. “Boxing allows mids to find out how they react to fear.”