In anticipation for the upcoming release of “12 Rounds in Lo’s Gym: Boxing and Manhood in Appalachia,” we are checking in with some of the most accomplished and respected boxing figures from the state of West Virginia. These are road warriors, guys who fight anyone, anywhere, anytime — Appalachian underdogs of the squared circle. Their toughness mirrors the toughness of West Virginia. Today’s guest is no different.
He’s a professional kick boxer. He’s a professional boxer. He’s a professional MMA fighter. He’s fought in Russia. He’s fought in Denmark. He’s fought in Germany. He’s fought in Australia. He’s fought in Canada. He’s taken on the likes of James “Lights Out” Toney, Antonio “The Magic Man” Tarver, and Ruslan Chagaev. A friend of “Lo’s Gym Boxing Club” and a true Appalachian warrior, please welcome to the blog — Palestine, West Virginia’s hometown hero, “Lighting” Mike Sheppard.
In “12 Rounds in Lo’s Gym,” I write about West Virginia’s unique ties to boxing history. Your story is, of course, included. How would you like to be remembered as a West Virginia professional boxer? What makes West Virginians so tough?
MS: I’d like to be remembered as a boxer who always gave his best effort with lots of heart and pride and never giving up or backing down. I think people from West Virginia are typically tougher than most others. For the most part people from West Virginia have a rural background and grow up doing manual labor as kids and it continues throughout their lives. It seems like wrestling is a big sport here and people who grow up competing in it naturally become tough mentally and physically.
Earlier this year, you faced the legendary James “Lights Out” Toney in what will likely be the final bout of his Hall of Fame career. What are your takeaways from getting in the ring with Toney?
MS: Toney is hard to hit. He’s one of the greatest boxers of all time. It was a true honor to get that opportunity and compete with him. But I had a medical condition that slowed me down for that particular fight. Actually a few of them. But I have no excuses. 5 months before the fight I tore one of my bicept tendons off my forearm. Then after I had surgery and got back at it I tore the other one off. This was 5 and ½ weeks out. So I just went with it and let it go. It was hard to get in shape like that but I also found out right after I had a vitamin d deficiency and now take medication for it as well. But it is what it is and I wouldn’t trade any of it.
Over the course of your career as a professional boxer, you’ve faced some top-notch professional boxers (Antonio Tarver, Ruslan Chagaev, Brian Minto, Clifford Etienne, etc.). As a competitor, what does it mean to know that you’ve face some of the world’s best fighters?
MS: Well, I did all I could do and I took it as far as I could take it. No regrets or take backs.
You’ve compiled 25 big wins during the course of your career as a professional boxer. Is there one win that means the most to you?
MS: 25 Wins (as a professional boxer) are great but I really had a few more. I have many more wins in professional Kickboxing 29-7-2 and professional mma 9-2-1nc. But the best boxing win is probably when I went to Florida and beat 36-4 former World Champion China Smith for the WBF North American Heavyweight Title. I also went to Moscow, Russia and Ko’d a Russian Champion for a World Kickboxing Title and did the same in Brisbane, Australia.
What, in your opinion, could be done to improve the boxing scene in West Virginia?
MS: As for making boxing better in wv, the opposite is actually true. I promote fights as many people know but it’s getting harder and harder to put on fights. More insurance, more liability, more laws, more medical tests. All of this means more money so it makes it really hard to put on an event. Your question asks for my opinion on how wv boxing could get better. We need to get the public interested and get the Athletic commission to back off some of their policies that make it harder and more expensive on the promoter. Putting on a show is very difficult and expensive as well as stressful.
Thanks for your time, Mike. Best of luck moving forward.
Thank you, Todd .
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