“Kickboxing is boxing, plus you kick,” Steve Shepherd said. “That’s it.”
A five-time world kickboxing champion during his younger years and a promoter of major cards in both sports later on, Shepherd doesn’t draw huge distinctions between the two disciplines.
“I was good at kickboxing because I was good at boxing,” said Shepherd, a 1968 graduate of Lake Worth High School, “and I did box both professionally and as an amateur.”
The prime reason that Shepherd is being inducted to the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame, however, is for his tireless work as a manager and a promoter of more than 200 champions, both amateur and professional, at the state, national and world championship level.
One of the boxers who started out at Shepherd’s old gym on Military Trail in West Palm Beach was middleweight David Lewter, another of the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame’s 2017 inductees.
Lewter, 22-4 as a professional, is a former Palm Beach Lakes High School and Palm Beach Atlantic College student. He was waiting tables part-time at a West Palm Beach restaurant when he signed his first pro boxing contract.
“David Lewter was one fight away from getting a world title shot,” Shepherd said. “He got a fight on national TV against a former world champion (Jose Luis Lopez) and got his jaw broken in the first round. He didn’t tell me or I would stopped it, of course.”
Lewter, 43, eventually retired from that Dec. 1, 2000 fight in the eighth round, a major career opportunity lost. He battled Lopez that night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Lewter’s later fights, all victories, were at venues like the Delray Beach Tennis Center, the South Florida Fairgrounds and the Harriet Himmel Theater at West Palm Beach’s Cityplace.
That’s how the fight game goes, and it worked out better for Shepherd and Lewter than most. They are the first from Palm Beach County to enter the state boxing hall of fame.
The induction ceremony is a three-day affair in June at the Westshore Grand Hotel in Tampa. Included in the same induction class are a couple of former world heavyweight champions, Michael Moorer and Trevor Berbick, the man who beat Muhammad Ali in the great one’s final fight.
Shepherd, 66, was added to the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame in 1982. He’s still leading customers through fitness and self-defense workouts at his KickBox-SuperFIT gym at 915 North Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach. No more getting serious fighters ready for professional careers, but the list of those he did assist as manager and trainer and sometimes corner man is long and varied.
Former IBF junior middleweight champion Kassim Ouma from Uganda is one. Lena Akesson, once the top-ranked female boxer in the world, is another. All the while, Shepherd stayed involved in kickboxing, promoting numerous cards that filled the old West Palm Beach Auditorium.
“Looking back on it,” Shepherd said, “I’m just so glad I got the chance to actually help these people. All credit to them. They’re the ones who were in the rings. They were the ones taking the shots. I’m just glad I was able to give them some advice to help them.