Boxing is not a sport often associated with Cowley County, but for the past 10 years, there has been an entire gym full of boxers in Winfield.
Two boxers who train at Team Punisher Boxing Gym are heading to the final qualifier for the United States Olympic Trials this month.
Bryson Nuckles and Daniel Chase will fight in separate divisions, each vying for the No. 1 or No. 2 spot.
If either is successful in placing first or second, he will head to Colorado for the Olympic Trials.
Nuckles, a Winfield resident and former Arkansas City High School wrestler, is a three-time world champion and the son of Trace Nuckles, the owner of Team Punisher.
Chase is an Oxford resident and a two-time world champion.
Team Punisher Boxing Gym is located at 516 Main St. in Winfield.
Both young men have boxed for more than a decade and are making last minute preparations for the qualifiers. This set of matches will be held from October 15 to the 21, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The qualifying matches the boxers are heading to are the last set that determine who goes to the Olympic Trials. In all, there are eight sets of qualifying matches.
The class that Nuckles and Chase box in is open to fighters between 18 and 40 years of age.
“There’s not going to be one slouch there,” Nuckles said.
‘Spud’ starts boxing
Nuckles, referred to as “Spud” by most at the Team Punisher gym, began boxing at 8 years old as a method to stay fit during the wrestling off-season.
Trace said he hadn’t expected his son to be a great boxer, but Bryson really took to the sport.
“I didn’t end up going to college for wrestling because of boxing,” Bryson said.
“It’s tough to be a dad coach,” Trace said. But he never pressured Bryson to succeed — taking responsibility for any shortfalls in competition.
Since then, Bryson has come a long way, winning world championships and countless other matches.
Many of the trophies and belts displayed at Trace’s gym belong to him.
“I got so many (trophies), I started giving them away after matches,” Bryson said.
“Turned out … he was a really good boxer,” Trace said.
Boxing, not fighting
Chase has a very different story of success that started at age 11.
“I was bullied,” he said. “That’s why I started (boxing).”
Chase had paper routes in his hometown, and between the routes and school, he was bullied by his peers.
His father eventually directed him to the boxing team. “It was after a bad day at school,” Chase said. “I went to him with tears in my eyes and then he brought me out here.”
“When he first came here, I told him, ‘I’ll teach you how to box, but I’m not going to teach you how to hurt people,’” said Trace Nuckles.
He emphasized the importance of not picking fights and the difference from defending oneself.
“He’s been one of the greatest kids,” Trace said.
Bryson Nuckles was picked to win in the first of the qualifying matches.
However, before he could fight, he broke his knee.
Bryson was out of the ring for 11 months, following a freak accident with 30 seconds left in a sparring round.
“I stepped wrong, and there it went,” he said.
The break was significant, including a broken kneecap and torn meniscus. He was in surgery the same day as the qualifiers he was picked to win.
“I got a cadaver (tissue) in there and everything,” Bryson said of his reconstructed knee.
But he jumped right back into training when he was able. “I’m ready to go,” he said.
Chase has fought in championship matches for some time, including the Kansas-Oklahoma Golden Gloves.
“Not many people know there’s a boxer (in Oxford),” Chase said. “They don’t know there’s a Kansas-Oklahoma champion.”
But asked if he anticipated attempting to qualify for the Olympics when he started boxing, he paused.
“When I first started, no,” Chase said. “I’d have never guessed. When I first started, I didn’t want to do competition — I was too nice. I didn’t want to hurt anybody.”
Trace said Chase recently started exhibiting solid confidence in the ring. “I’m ready to go,” Chase said.
Team Punisher origins
Trace was a boxer, as well, which is part of why Bryson started in the sport.
“You got to be mentally tough, you got to be physically tough … you got to be smart — you’ve got to be three moves ahead of your opponent while he’s punching you in the face,” Trace said.
In his opinion, training in boxing gives people the confidence to do anything in life.
“We want Kansas (boxing) to develop so well that we spar with each other all the time,” Trace said.
There are several boxers in the area, some of whom Team Punisher travels to spar with regularly.
“We’re in Wichita two days a week,” Trace said.
His gym is open for more people to come and learn how to box. There are some age restrictions, but anyone older than 10 is welcome to the gym out, Trace said.
If interested, Team Punisher Boxing Gym can be contacted at (620) 222-5122.