Sheppard a world traveler

It’s hard to believe two decades have passed since I graduated from Wirt County.

While everyone has things in their yearbook for most likely to succeed and other various titles, one thing I don’t think we had back in the day was person most likely to travel the world.

I can’t say with 100 percent certainty, but I’m pretty sure ex-Tiger Mike Sheppard gets that nod from the Class of 1993.

The WCHS teacher left for Berlin, Germany on Tuesday to take on former WBA heavyweight champion Ruslan Chagaev for a scheduled 10-rounder on Friday inside Universal Hall.

Chagaev, a southpaw from Uzbekistan who is ranked third in the WBA and sixth in the IBF, sports a 30-2-1 (19 KOs) record.

Earlier this month, Sheppard was supposed to fight in a K-1 kickboxing event, but it didn’t pan out.

Luckily, he had been training hard for his K-1 bout and then got a phone call to see if he wanted to come to Europe.

“It looked like I wasn’t going to get a fight until about two and a half weeks ago,” Sheppard said. “I took my foot off the throttle because you can’t train full out all the time and I coasted for about a week and I got the call last Wednesday.

“Chagaev’s opponent couldn’t fight because of medical issues. The next day I went back in the gym, sparred for eight rounds with Keith Barr and six rounds on the mitts with (trainer) Leon (Ramsey). So, I think I’m going to do good. Chagaev was the man there for a while.”

Indeed he was as the talented lefty got his shot at the IBF/WBO and IBO heavyweight crowns when he faced off against Wladimir Klitschko in the summer of 2009.

“Klitschko stopped him in the ninth round. That’s the only fight to go nine rounds with Klitschko. That means you are pretty good,” Sheppard added. “He’s a tough guy with good defense.

“Last time I was in Germany (November 2010 lost to current No. 15 world heavyweight Denis Boytsov in Hamburg) Chagaev fought Travis Walker. I thought he lost, but they gave it (an eight round decision) to him, of course.

Sheppard added that this “isn’t his first rodeo. I’m going to go cut loose and see what happens. I’m going to go over by myself. Leon’s son is getting married in California this weekend.

“I know a guy over there who is in boxing. He’s our friend and he’s going to help us out and bring in another trainer.”

As Sheppard creeps toward the age of 38, he wakes up each day knowing his window for being a fighter continues to shrink. However, he’s not afraid to go into a fight as a decided underdog to test his skills and see what happens.

“I haven’t fought since August, but I should be all right,” said Sheppard, who is on the undercard with the feature bout being Odlanier Solis (18-1, 12 KOs) putting his IBF I/C title on the line versus Leif Larsen (17-0, 14 KOs).

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