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Mark Daniels Jr. looks to defend boxing title while keeping eye on a bigger goals

Katie Thoresen

A Forest County Potawatomi man will be defending his Wisconsin Middleweight Boxing championship title tomorrow in Green Bay.

As part of WXPR’s We Live Up Here series, Katie Thoresen spoke with Mark Daniels Jr. about how the sport has shaped who he is.

At Wgetthda “Warrior” Boxing Club in the Northwoods Recreation Center in Crandon, Mark Daniels Jr. goes through the rounds with his trainer Cainen Shooter.

It’s his last few days of training before his big fight Saturday in Green Bay.

Though to him, most of the training right now is mental.

“Just constantly being aware of the fight itself and what it all entails,” said Daniels “By the time the fight comes, you’re at the very end and you know you gave everything. There was nothing more that you can sacrifice. You almost have this sense of confidence that rather than ‘I hope I’m going to win.’ You have this confidence that ‘I know I’m going to win tonight. This is my night because I trained so hard. I did everything I was supposed to do.’”

The physical side of training is actually pulled back from what he used to put in, according to Shooter.

“He’s always been the hardest working guy in the room, no matter what room he’s in. Up until last year, we had to tone it down a bit. He was kind of training too hard. He’d be overtrained and we’d see those kinds of effects on him. He’s hard-working. Almost to a detriment sometimes,” said Shooter.

Daniels enjoys putting in the effort.

He’s been boxing most of his life, starting in the gym his father started.

“My dad started us when we were 11, so back in 2001. I saw a fighter on TV and how good he was. His name was Roy Jones Jr. I was like, ‘Wow. I want to be able to fight like that guy,’” said Daniels.

Daniels has now been boxing professionally since 2015 with a 7-1 record, including two knockouts.

“It wasn’t easy. I always think why did I have to choose the hardest sport? Why such a demanding sport? But something in me, upon achieving the things that I did in my life with the boxing, it’s like I was made for this,” he said.

Daniels says boxing has become more than what takes place in the gym or in the ring. It taught him discipline and focus while helping him find who he is.

Shooter says, in his experience, that’s a pretty common theme in the sport.

“Martial arts is great for that. Kind of that self-expression and that sense of finding who you are and what you’re made of,” said Shooter.

As Daniels continues to grow and work towards his goals, Shooter and his coach and mittman CJ Holmes are excited to help him get there.

“It’s grueling. It’s hard work. With him, personally, it’s good to see that when you work and what you train with. he puts it to work. It puts a big smile on my face,” said Holmes.

“I take that with a tremendous amount of gratitude. Anybody that helps me, everybody that helps me, I appreciate all of the support. My way of repaying that is by being the best me I can be and achieving that stuff,” said Daniels.

Daniels said his original goal when it was clear he could do well in the sport was to make it on TV like he once saw Roy Jones Jr.

Now that’s changed.

“The belief that everyone has in me, that I could make it to the top, that I could be the world champion one day. I could be number one,” said Daniels.

But when I first asked the question ‘What was his ultimate goal?’ his immediate answer wasn’t directed at his boxing career.

“There is more to life that I want. When I was younger, just a couple of years ago, I had the mindset that I only deserved so much because of the things I did in life,” explained Daniels. “Being with my wife and growing. Being with my kids and figuring out who I wanted them to look at me as, as their parent. I just wanted to be a good man and to keep growing and to keep continue doing that. Cause I want to be the example. How can I tell them to be something, if I never taught them how to do it?”

It's that goal that may make another one of his answers make more sense.

Despite his skills and passion for a violent sport, Daniel’s biggest message to people is to simply be kind.

“It’s weird. I am in one of these brutal sports, but if you get to know me as a person, I would never want to hurt a fly. I do have compassion for my opponents sometimes. I guess that’s sometimes not always a good thing,” said Daniels. “I just believe in being good to people. I’ve been a kid before and made some stupid choices and I learn from it. The ultimate goal for me is to just become a good person and teach my kids that too.”

Daniel is fighting Benjamin Zelfer Saturday in Green Bay to defend his middleweight state championship title.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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