ELIZABETH - Come Friday night in Tulsa, Okla., Wirt County's Mike Sheppard will be going after his fifth world kickboxing crown when he takes on undefeated Randy "Boom Boom" Blake in the main event during Xtreme Fight Night 7 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
The vacant ISKA World Heavyweight (210 pounds) kickboxing title will be on the line and Sheppard is hoping to keep the momentum going after claiming the IKF Pro World Heavyweight kickboxing crown back in March when he bloodied opponent Robert Glasson-Wilesmith during a technical knockout victory in Australia.
"Blake is a local guy and he's been training with Dale ("Apollo") Cook, who was a four-time world champ and one of the kickboxing pioneers of the United States," said Sheppard, who actually defeated Blake by decision several years ago during a fight in Chuck Norris' World Combat League.
Sheppard previously held the ISKA World Super Cruiserweight kickboxing championship when he defeated Roman Beskishkov in Russia back in 2007.
The next year he returned to Russia and lost the crown at the Battle of Volga against Alexei Tokarev.
"This is one weight class up and if I win this I'll actually have 10 big championship belts I've won and be in double digits," said Sheppard, who turned 37 on Friday.
"His (Blake's) thing is going to be to keep me at the end of his punches and kicks because he's really fast and long. My thing, of course, will be coming forward with punches and power shots."
The scheduled five-rounder, which features three minute rounds, will use modified Muay Thai rules.
"Different states only allow certain things," Sheppard added. "You can use leg kicks, knees and pull the head into the knee and you can clinch and knee and hold and clinch and keep kneeing.
"That's a little game in itself in Muay Thai, the clinch game. My opponent is real athletic and he's real long legged and he's got pretty good knees."
Sheppard said that although he just turned 37, there's little question in his mind or trainer Leon Ramsey of Glenville's Dawghouse Gym that the ex-Tiger is in the best shape of his life.
"He's mentally and physically, I believe, sharper and in better condition than he ever has been," Ramsey said of Sheppard, who will bring a 23-6-1 (18 KOs) mark into the fight versus Blake (21-0, 16 KOs).
"It's just a progression and Mike has stayed with it, survived and not slacked off.
"Few men in the entire world have done such a thing, winning four or five world titles, and he's a legitimate four-time world kickboxing champion and two have been won overseas. These are big titles. I think he's going to do it and shut the guy down. I have full faith and confidence in him."
Sheppard said he truly felt, "I've never been in better shape and if he's going to beat me, he's going to beat the best me. I'm as strong and fast as I ever was. They are in for a big surprise if they think they are getting a washed up 37-year-old man.
"It won't go the distance. He could win by decision, but I won't. Once I start connecting and he starts slowing down it's just a matter of time."
The expected 14-fight card also features former Glenville State College football player and Herbert Hoover High School graduate Wes Hanson (6-0, 5 KOs) taking on James Warren (6-1-1) for a 145-pound MMA title in the XFL (Extreme Fight League).
"This will be a great fight," Ramsey said of Hanson's chance to compete with some big names taking in the show like current UFC Light Heavyweight champion and celebrity guest Jonny "Bones" Jones as well as the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard, Chuck Liddell and Bill Goldberg.
"If Wes has a great showing out there, there are a lot of people watching and this is a huge thing for him," Ramsey added of Hanson, who has won his last five MMA bouts by knockout.
"Wes is so tuned up right now and he's at the peak at what he is before a fight and Mike is too. The thing about Wes Hanson, I think he's an animal for MMA.
"Right here is a huge step to have a good showing in front of Jon Jones and the people who are there can make things happen a lot faster."