Man On Fire

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Wes Nofire wakes at 5:30 a.m. No alarm clock. His body is used to it. After a quick protein shake, it’s out the door for roadwork. Three or four miles later he returns for push-ups and sit-ups and pushups and sit-ups and rest. At noon he’s off to the boxing gym to work with his trainer, John David Jackson, who sharpens his talents with shadowboxing, jumping rope, working the heavy bag and mitts and sparring. Then it’s recovery time until around 6 p.m. when he heads to the weight gym. After a mile run as warm-up, it’s time for a weight workout – high reps with low weights to avoid over-bulking his six-foot, six-inch, 233-pound frame while building strength and endurance. He tops that off with plyometrics before returning home for dinner and some TV before bedtime at 10:30. In the morning he’ll do it all again.

The Cherokee boxer had planned to graduate in the top 10 at Tahlequah Sequoyah High School in 2004, to play college basketball and pursue a law degree. But when he couldn’t find the right situation to pursue basketball, those plans changed.

“I went (to college) with the intention of playing basketball,” he recalls, “but it just didn’t happen the way I wanted it to.”  Without basketball, Nofire felt the urge to move on with life, and for him that meant leaving college at Northeastern State University and moving to Tulsa.

“I wanted to get out and explore the world of being an adult,” he says, “but the competitiveness from sports was always there.”

“It took that leap of faith. We didn’t know anybody in the boxing world there.”

After a few years, that competitive fire led Nofire to a local boxing gym. But without a thriving boxing community in Tulsa, Nofire was forced to teach himself much of the fundamentals of the sport. His teaching method? Watching YouTube videos.

“I learned a lot about technique and footwork watching videos online,” he explains, “and I loved watching boxing on TV growing up.”

His unconventional learning method proved successful enough that he caught the eye of heavyweight contender Kevin Johnson, who asked Nofire to spar with him as he prepared for an approaching fight against a tall opponent. The experience convinced Nofire he could make a living as a prizefighter, and after a brief amateur career, he relocated with his wife, Molly, to Miami, Fla.

“It took that leap of faith,” he says. “We didn’t know anybody in the boxing world there.”

But Nofire did know of Jackson, the renowned trainer who helped shape another Oklahoma fighter, Allan Green, into a contender. Jackson saw enough potential in Nofire when they met to work with him, and six months after Nofire moved to Miami, he and Jackson traveled back to Oklahoma for his first professional bout at promoter Dale “Apollo” Cook’s Xtreme Fight Night at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa. In the five months since he knocked out Marc Webb in that fight, Nofire has fought twice more, prevailing both times. And each victory has come in Oklahoma.

With a goal of six to eight fights this year, the 25-year-old Nofire knows he must continue to rise at 5:30 each morning if he wants to one day fight for a heavyweight championship. He also knows that there are eyes watching him from his home state, many of them youngsters who thirst for role models from within their own communities. Stepping out the door into the dark air, sometimes he thinks of them.

“I hope I can give a lot of younger Native Americans the confidence to go do something,” Nofire says, “let them know there is something else out there.”

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