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Sue TL Fox originally wrote this story in 2002.  Update July 30, 2014.  Fox contacted her family to find out after an extended Illness, she passed away on March 6, 2014. 








The Boxer Named "Phil"
By Sue TL Fox

"Matchmaker Johnnie Nate stands outside the Armory last Thursday night and tries to figure out why he was denied the rental of the building. Nate had scheduled a nine-bout amateur fight card for the building, but authorities in Indianapolis later cancelled him out. Nate believes it is because he had two lady boxers on the show"   Written in 1957...

Phyllis Kugler, a boxer in the 1950's, who had reported over 50 fights that most were exhibitions, with only one loss is one of the most prominent women boxers in the past, and played a significant part in the world of women's boxing.  [WBAN uncovered by extensive research with the Official Record Keeper for the sport FIGHT FAX, and other sources, i.e., boxing commissions,  that many of these past fights that happened in the 70's and prior years were not sanctioned bouts, and are in fact either "unsanctioned" or in many cases "exhibitions.)

n the South Bend Tribute, dated 1957, it says, "Phil Kugler's name didn't stir any controversy in the Tribune's amateur boxing results.  Kugler seemed like just another young boxer who fared well at The Arena over on North Hill Street during the early 1950's. But all that changed when a reporter ambled over to watch the fights one night and found out that Phil was short for Phyllis."

Phyllis told WBAN that it was not all that unnatural for her to take up the sport as her father was an amateur boxer, and her brothers also boxed. She was acclimated to going to a boxing gym, and felt that she would also like to box when her brothers were boxing.  With the help of a boxing trainer/manager, Johnny Nate, Kugler turned pro.  Kugler managed to earn world women's titles in three weight classes.

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Kugler said that she has never looked at boxing as something that a woman should not do.  She admitted that she was somewhat of a "tomboy" when she was growing up.   Kugler said that when she first started boxing, that her mother had a problem with it--- especially after she broke her nose several times.  Kugler said that people in her area did not always understand her love of being a boxer....

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Because it was more of an oddity at the time, Nate her trainer, told Kugler to wear dresses out of the ring and to keep her hair long.  Kugler always maintained a femininity outside of the ring---which was totally opposite of her inside the ring!

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Kugler said that she would even go as far as to promote some of her bouts by wearing a pair of high heels, dressed in a short skirt, and put on a blindfold and do a 15-minute routine on a speed bag!

Kugler would do some of these "speedbag exhibitions" at car shows, openings, and other events to promote her boxing.

Kugler had made several television appearances that included, i.e.,  "The Steve Allen Show," "What's My Line" and "I've Got a Secret."  When Kugler and JoAnn Hagen were going to appear on What's my Line, the Tribune wrote the following:

TOP SECRET DEPT:  Don't tell anyone you read it here. But...a couple of South Bend lassies will appear on the CBS What's My Line show at 9:30 p.m. today on WSBT-TV, Channel 34.  The girls are JoAnn Hagan and Phyllis Kugler.  Don't ask me what's their line.  I'm liable to get a fast right hook to the chin if I tell you. 
1956 - Indiana News - Tribune
kugler7.jpg (35481 bytes) In July of 1957, Kugler was chosen by the Faternal Order of  Police as "woman boxer and Beauty Queen of the year."  They sent a letter to her trainer, where she was invited to attend the All-Star Boxing Show to received this award. 

Some of the top women boxers of the 1950's she fought:

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Kugler and Barbara Buttrick fought two times. Both times were in 1957.

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The first fight that Phyllis Kugler faced Barbara Buttrick, the four-round fight ended in a draw. The fight took place in  Pompano Beach, Florida...

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The "Rematch" fight that Kugler had with Barbara Buttrick ended in a loss for Kugler. The fight was the first women's match to ever take place in the state of Texas. (San Antonio - 1957) 

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Magazine cover of more coverage of Kugler and Buttrick - 1957

Kugler: "The fight with JoAnn Hagen was postponed until December 13, 1956..."  Kugler defeated Hagen in what would be Joann Hagen's only loss. 

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Thumbnail of Ticket

Editorial in People Today - November 1957
Talks about Kugler's win over Hagen....

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November 18, 1956...Phyllis Kugler and JoAnn Hagen were guests on the Steve Allen Show... This thumbnail document is the "dress Rehearsal" order of how the show would be televised. 

Tony Zale and Phyllis in Chicago...Kugler was awarded a boxing trophy  

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Editorial clip about Phyllis Kugler and Hagen on the Steve Allen Show - 1956
You can view this show at the  Museum of TV and Radio in New York City, New York....

Another short clip about the Steve Allen Show and a video clip of Kugler - dated 1956.

Night and Day Magazine
America's Picture Magazine
April 1958

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Excerpt from Kugler's fight with Buttrick:


August 31, 1957

POMPANO BEACH – The first women’s boxing match in Florida will be staged August 31, 1957, in Florida at the Buffalow Bisco Ball Park, Glen L. Shepperd announced Satuday. The bout will be a semi-final. The event will pit two outstanding welterweights in 10-rounder, said Shepperd.

The Bouts also will be the first outdoor boxing show in the North Broward area…..Already signed are the women battlers, Phyllis Kugler of South Bend, Indiana and Barbara Buttrick, now of New York City…..The women fighters are being put on to bring out the crowds, but they are battlers just the same…Women have never fought professionally in Florida before to my knowledge, so we should draw a pretty good crowd all around….The Indiana girl weighs 121 and once gave a boxing exhibition on the Steve Allen Television show…She’s quite a battler and will give Barbara a real scrap. Barbara is British Empire Champion and has a world of experience to back her up. Special guests appearing at ringside will be Joey Maxim, Bobby Dykes, and Petey Sarton.

When Kugler retired in 1959, at the tender age of 22 years old, she had a reported 55-1-0 record.  [Past boxing records WBAN has discovered through research throughout the years can be inaccurately reported.]

So why DID Kugler stop boxing at such a young age?  Kugler said that at 22, she fell in love.  She said that her first husband made an ultimatum that she had to choose between boxing or marrying him.  Kugler said, "I chose him....even though I was in the prime of my career." 

A "Now" photo of Kugler....She is now retired and living in Arizona with her husband.

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Kugler with her second husband..Her name is now Phyliss Kugler-McCormick....

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Kugler has five children, and seven grandchildren.  In fact, WBAN was first contacted by one of Kugler's grandchildren which helped in getting in contact with her. 

*Sue TL Fox originally wrote this story in 2002.  Update July 30, 2014.  Fox contacted her family to find out after an extended Illness, she passed away on March 6, 2014. 














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