The Boxer Named "Phil"
By Sue TL Fox
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
In 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 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
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....
||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!
||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:
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
1956 - Indiana News - Tribune
||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:
and Barbara Buttrick fought two times. Both times were in 1957.
first fight that Phyllis Kugler faced Barbara Buttrick, the
four-round fight ended in a draw. The fight took place in
Pompano Beach, Florida...
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)
of more coverage of Kugler and Buttrick - 1957
"The fight with JoAnn Hagen was postponed until December 13,
1956..." Kugler defeated Hagen in what would be Joann
Hagen's only loss.
in People Today - November 1957
Talks about Kugler's win over Hagen....
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.
Zale and Phyllis in Chicago...Kugler was awarded a boxing
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....
clip about the Steve Allen Show and a video clip of Kugler - dated
Night and Day
America's Picture Magazine
Excerpt from Kugler's fight with Buttrick:
BOXERS SIGN ON POMPANO CARD
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
photo of Kugler....She is now retired and living in Arizona with her
|Kugler with her second
husband..Her name is now Phyliss Kugler-McCormick....
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
*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.