Mark Antonio Daniels Jr. is an enrolled member of the Forest County Potawatomi and also of Menominee descent. He is from the Eagle Clan. He is one of about 1400 Potawatomi tribal members. Mark Jr. lives in Crandon, Wisconsin outside of the Forest County Potawatomi Reservation, which is spread over 12,000 discontinuous acres across Forest and Oconto Counties.
Mark Jr. has competed in amateur boxing competitions, including the Golden Gloves, since he was eleven years old. He has trained under noted boxing instructors Harry "The Hammer" Funmaker, Smoking Joe, James "Sun Sun" Wayka (Menominee), and Eugene Webster (Menominee). Mark Jr.’s dream is to become a professional boxer. He now trains with the Forest County Potawatomi Boxing Club (FCP) under the guidance of his father, coach Mark Daniels Sr.
Boxing is often a family affair; witness the Caldwell and Boyd brothers from the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin, the Powless and Skenadore brothers from Oneida, the Porter family from Milwaukee and the Funmakers from Ho-Chunk. In any tribal community with a boxing club you will find relatives competing together, with younger siblings following in the footsteps of their elder siblings as they become champions.
There is a long history of American Indian participation in the sport of boxing across the state of Wisconsin, particularly at the amateur level. Members from the various tribal communities have attained championships at the regional, state, national and military levels. The FCP competes with native and non-native boxing clubs across Wisconsin.
Boxing affords young people in some of these communities an opportunity to participate in a sport outside of the educational setting. For some, boxing may be the only athletic program available to Native youth as school-related programs may have limited numbers of participants. Mark Daniels Sr. started the FCP club in an old tribal hall meant for general council meetings. At times the club has had up to 60 members and has since relocated to a larger training area.
Native boxing champions are highly respected in their communities, and the winner’s jacket or shoulder patch is worn with a great sense of pride. After a recent tournament Mark Daniels Sr. noted that the FCP boxing team “are champions of Native pride. [They] sacrificed together, trained together, bled, sweated and left everything in the ring together like the warriors [they] are disciplined to be.” Boxing can be viewed as a test of skill, courage, bravery, physical endurance and respect for an opponent, much like for a warrior on the battlefield.
As long as the sport of amateur boxing survives, there will be boxers from Wisconsin’s tribal communities who will follow in the footsteps of the great boxers that came before them. As Mark Daniel Sr. states, “The discipline of these young warriors is so admirable. [They] rebound and accept defeat so graciously, knowing they will only strive to keep reaching to better themselves, their teammates, and their community.”