PARKERSBURG - The champions are coming, the champions are coming!
Not only will reigning West Virginia state heavyweight boxing champion Mike Sheppard be fighting, but former world heavyweight champion Buster Douglas from Columbus, Ohio, also will be in attendance at a pro-am boxing show at Parkersburg South High School on Saturday night.
The 7:30 p.m. card at the Rod Oldham Athletic Center will feature Sheppard, from Palestine in Wirt County, taking on Joseph Harris (12-10) from Memphis, Tenn., along with Douglas, who stunned the boxing world in 1990 with his KO of Mike Tyson in Tokyo to win the undisputed world heavyweight crown, as he is mentoring a young 4-0 pro ring prospect - 6-6, 290-pound heavyweight John L. Smith Jr. - who will be fighting Saturday night.
Whereas Sheppard has won five fights in a row, Harris, who Sheppard said, ''you could call a journeyman fighter,'' has dropped three straight in the ring. But, stressed Sheppard, Harris ''has fought some top-level competition in those bouts, losing to guys who were 21-1 or 21-2.''
Harris is a 5-11, 240-pound southpaw while Sheppard, now 36, is 6-2 and 226 pounds, and says he feels ''stronger, faster and healthier than I've ever been before - now that I'm not worried trying to keep my weight right around 215 all the time.'
Sheppard said with the limited amount of time he has remaining in the sport, he'd like to use his excellent and extensive overall ring record - covering boxing (19-12), kick-boxing (28-7-2) in which he has won several championships including a national one, and MMA (7-2) although he hasn't done it for about four years now - to land some sort of regional WBC Continental or NABA title shot, where a win would get him into the top-15 ratings and earn a possible shot at ''one of the big boys'' of the boxing profession
However, Sheppard knows that if that happens, then Saturday night's fight at South ''could be the last local boxing match for me. I want to cash in on my experience, background and record to fight the big guys.''
Of course though, Sheppard, being a Mid-Ohio Valley boy, said he nevertheless ''would definitely come back to the area to defend any higher title I might win.''
Advance tickets for the boxing card, co-promoted by former West Virginia state cruiserweight champion Gary Wolfe of Parkersburg, are on sale now at Hill's Exxon in Elizabeth and all area Smoker Friendly locations for $16 general admission and $30 reserved seats. The only change in price at the door Saturday night will be $20 for general admission.
Also fighting on the card are Brian Camechis, ''The Golden Greek,'' who is 20-3, trained by veteran Sam Jones in Glouster, Ohio, and has appeared on ESPN, along with local amateur boxers Dustin Echard, a key member of the 2003 Parkersburg South Class AAA state championship football team; Nate Hall of Mineral Wells; Gary Wick of Parkersburg, and Rodney Gibson, a former college basketball player trained by Wolfe.