ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The tradition of the Aquinas Institute is unparalleled. For the last 88 years, Li’l Irish boxers competed in the Aquinas Mission Bouts, to raise money for students’ missions.

Without a boxing team at this school this season, head coach Dom Arioli had to get creative to keep the event going. Arioli put a message out to his alumni asking if they wanted to be the ones to get in the ring and raise money for a great cause. Thirty-nine said yes.

“We have guys fighting that graduated in 1985 to guys that graduated a year or two ago,” said Arioli. “I’ve been doing this for 40 years and they’re all so special to me. They’re great boxers, great fathers, and great men.”

The decision to participate in Friday’s no-decision exhibition fights was a no-brainer for the alumni. Coach Dom changed their lives, and they wanted to give back to the man who gave them everything.

“This was the greatest thing that’s happened to me in my life, boxing at Aquinas. All the guys, coach Dom, the whole program,” said Pat Duffy, star of WCMF and Class of 2004. “Dom is like a dad to everyone. He’s the kindest, gentlest, most soft-spoken, lesson-giving man you’ll ever meet.”

“This one’s special. It brings new life back into it,” said Josh Leonardo, Class of 2010. “To have some of the older guys who it meant so much to. Coach changed our lives.” 

“A lot of us have come to the gym over the years and seen him, we’ve attended the bouts but he’s just so important to us,” said Chris Latoski, Class of 1997. “Coach really is the glue.”

The alumni started training back in April at Roc Boxing. Getting back in the ring was not as easy as many of the guys anticipated. Even the most in-shape people agreed there is no workout quite like boxing. Despite the aches and pains, the reunion of old friends and teammates is worth it all.

“They have a mutual respect for each other,” said Arioli. “They go into the ring as friends and come out as friends.”

The 89th annual Aquinas Mission Bouts will take place on Friday at 6 p.m.