After taking a little time off from the fight scene Wirt County's Mike Sheppard is ready and raring to go back at it again.
While the 26th running of the News and Sentinel Half Marathon will take place bright and early on the morning of Saturday, Aug. 18, the action will be a lot different later that night inside the Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort in Chester.
That's because the vacant North American Boxing Association (NABA) heavyweight title will be on the line when Sheppard (20-13, 9 KOs) enters the ring as an underdog against Brian "The Beast" Minto (36-5, 23 KOs) in the main event.
"You know, the winner of this is looking at a big payday," Sheppard said. "I fought for this title once versus Nick Firtha in Cleveland and he was from Akron and I thought I had won that fight, but it was a majority decision. Ironically, Minto and Firtha have the same manager."
When Sheppard went toe-to-toe with Firtha for 10 rounds nearly two years ago, one judge had the fight even at 95 while the other two went 97-93 against the out-of-towner. Suffice it to say the bout wouldn't have went to the cards, according to Sheppard, had it been a 12-rounder.
The winner of this fight, which is scheduled for 12 rounds, will earn a top 15 ranking in the World Boxing Association (WBA) and that's where the bigger payoffs occur.
Of course, Sheppard never has been one who goes out and risks life and limb just for a quick buck.
Yes, he's a four-time world kickboxing champion and he's been at a disadvantage most of his life in boxing because he wasn't brought up to be a boxer, but rather he competed in various fight genres because he enjoys it.
Both of these boxers are 37 and one obviously could say they are no spring chickens so to speak. However, that doesn't mean the fight is going to be dull.
Also, a lot of Sheppard's fight fans really haven't had a lot of chances to see him compete. Now, they are only a couple hours away from going and taking in what should be an interesting fight.
"These titles are stepping stones and they mean something," Sheppard said of getting another shot at the NABA belt.
"I have 13 losses. Really, about four or five of them I didn't feel like I lost. I learned the hard way. I've learned from my losses and I get better each time."
Obviously, Father Time isn't on the side of my former high school classmate, but I know as long as he still feels good with his mind and soul and his body holds up he's not going to quit.
This fight will mark the first time Sheppard has battled inside a casino.
"I'm pretty excited to get to fight in a casino where people here can go see it," he said.
Tickets range from $50 and $35 to $25 for the bleachers. Anyone interested in going can look Sheppard up on facebook.com or call him at 304-483-5503.
Contact Jay Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org