Steve Shepherd and ‘Dangerous Dave’ Lewter join Florida Boxing Hall of Fame

“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.

Photo for Dave George column on Steve Shepherd and Muhammad Ali
Steve Shepherd at his West Palm Beach gym. Photo by Dave George (Palm Beach Post staff writer)

“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.

[Bob D’Angio was the king of close calls as Forest Hill baseball coach]

[The Lane Kiffin revival tent is coming to Florida Atlantic]

[FSU keeping Jimbo is biggest news for program since hiring Jimbo]

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.

 

My strangest day in the business, in the company of Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Macho Camacho

Hector “Macho” Camacho (1962-2012) was posthumously inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame on Sunday, which took me back to the strangest day in my 38 years as a sportswriter.

LIVE FOR SPORTS FOR DTI 8C 1X1.5INCHES 8/12/WED Hector "Macho" Camacho, 1994
Hector “Macho” Camacho, 1994

Macho, a world-title holder in three divisions, lived and trained on a piece of property in rural Hendry County for a time, out from Clewiston, out of sight. There I made an unannounced visit on him in 1988 and for my troubles was treated to something too crazy for a comedy skit and too spooky for real life.

I tried to get most of it in a column for the next morning’s Post, including him wondering if the nearby farm land could be rezoned for use as a “Macho World” amusement park he wanted to open. A lot of the other stuff just got left out because there was too much going on in his mind to fit in one edition of the daily newspaper.

In 2012, when Camacho was shot dead while sitting in a parked car in Puerto Rico, I wrote the column you see below recalling my encounter with the boxer. Even now it reads like a scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie.

 

By Dave George

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Nov. 27, 2012

My one encounter with the late Hector “Macho” Camacho started with the cautious push of a security gate button. Out bounded the attack dogs. Up rose the heart rate.
Maybe, the thought arose, it would have been wise to tell family and friends where this particular work assignment had taken me, driving some 20 miles past Clewiston and down a two-lane county road to the backyard training camp of a famously unhinged boxer who had just that week been arrested for aggravated assault and possession of cocaine.
This was 1988, close to Macho’s prime as a lightning-fisted champion and a flamboyant self-promoter, and it was the period during his career that most fight fans thought of Saturday upon hearing the news of Camacho’s death in Puerto Rico from a gunshot wound.
He was a showman, all right, and a great draw in matches with Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Julio Cesar Chavez.
On that long-ago day, however, the mission was to get Macho’s version of an incident that was holding up a deal for a fight with Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.
A Clewiston High School student had reported an argument with Camacho on school grounds, with the worst of the accusation being that the boxer had waved a gun at him and threatened to kill him.
Now, unannounced and uninvited, a young reporter was on the property of Camacho’s home in the modest subdivision of Montura Ranch Estates. Someone shouted from a second-story window to come in and wait because Macho was in Miami picking up a friend at the airport and wouldn’t be back for a while.
Turns out he was sleeping in a back bedroom all along because, soon enough, the Macho Man appeared. Silent and sullen, he pushed aside a curtain of bright beads that was hanging in the doorway. He wore a skimpy pair of leopard-pattern briefs and nothing more.
Conversation, naturally, was out of the question at that point, but after some time Camacho lapsed into a rambling monologue as he paced rapidly about the room, sometimes plopping into a chair for a second or two but always talking, always spinning the story of his innocence, always professing his love for the people of Clewiston.
“This is the best place in the world for me to train and focus on what I want to do,” said Macho, a kid from Spanish Harlem who trained in an outdoor ring with a sand floor during his Clewiston days.
“This town doesn’t have any big buildings or anything. There are too many people without jobs. I want to buy all of this Montura Ranch area and build a shopping center, a fire department, everything. I want to build houses all up and down here and let people have them with an option to buy.
“I’ll make this Macho World, International.”
There was more rambling, much more, and all of it framed within what Camacho explained to me as his overarching philosophy of life — “I like to be mysterious, unpredictable, exciting, sexy. I’m like a light, going in and out of space.”
Many manic hours later, Camacho steered his guest into a side room, where several sparring partners were awakened from their naps so that a videotape could be popped into the television.
Suddenly everyone was treated to a recorded episode of Macho dancing and singing on a Puerto Rican television show, and everyone was strongly encouraged to dance and sing along. Eventually, faking an illness or something, I escaped.
Whatever happened to the gun and drug charges from 1988 is buried somewhere in the archives of the Hendry County clerk’s records and not immediately retrievable by workers there by the end of business Monday. File it under “mysterious,” along with all the other arrests and probations that kept Camacho in the headlines between fights.
He lived in Clewiston for only a handful of years, but that one afternoon in the Macho Man’s house played out like a decade at least.
[Rating the Adam Gase offseason buzz against other Dolphin coaching debuts]

[It’s not a misprint; Hurricanes are playing at Appalachian State]

[One last look back at all those great moments on Doral’s Blue Monster]

 

 

 

Dave’s Digital Domain: Welcome to my new blog

It’s odd, all the fuss about being a digital journalist. Seems like I’ve never been anything else. From typewriters to computer keyboards, every last column over the course of nearly 37 years has been produced with the participation and cooperation of all 10 digits.

Times and terms change, though. Plenty of you are reading this right now on a phone, which is odd in itself, but apparently necessary. Perhaps one day taking a college course on an electric toothbrush will be necessary, too. Meanwhile, I’ll try to connect with you, and vice versa, by everything this side of telepathy.

Today’s launch of my blog on the Palm Beach Post is a major part of that. You’re welcome into Dave’s Digital Domain any Monday through Friday to sample the dust that swirls around inside Dave’s simple brain.

Thanks for giving this a try. We’ll keep it up as long as you can stand it.


Dan Marino is special advisor to the Miami Dolphins’ CEO and president, Tom Garfinkel. That’s nice, but wouldn’t it be nicer if he were special advisor to the men actually making the team’s draft selections Thursday night?

Marino knows a little bit about what makes a successful NFL player, and about quarterbacks and wide receivers in particular. He shared that information with the world as an analyst for CBS and HBO. It seems a waste not to have his official input through player interviews or general discussions as the Dolphins search for draftees that could help pull them out of the doldrums.

Photo by Allen Eyestone, Palm Beach Post
Photo by Allen Eyestone, Palm Beach Post

Back in 2004 he gave front-office life a brief whirl, taking on the title of Dolphins’ Senior Vice President of Football Operations. If that had continued, Marino might eventually have assumed the same kind of power role that John Elway has in Denver. After three weeks on the job, however, Marino bowed out, saying it wasn’t a good fit for his family.

Now we see him doing community-service photo ops, taking golf trips to the Bahamas with big-money Dolphins fans, stuff like that. It’s easy to do and it’s good for the franchise’s business side. The business in which Marino excelled, however, is football, and a little bit of help from him in that area a few times a year, something in the personnel evaluation field, would go a long way.

Going into tonight’s draft we know that Mike Tannenbaum likes to play it really flashy. Dennis Hickey likes to play it really safe. With Marino’s voice in the process, even as an advisor, I would feel better about the Dolphins drafting really smart.


“The Fight of the Century” between Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and Manny Pacquiao on Saturday is breaking every record for monetary excess.

It’ll be six figures to buy ringside seats after-market. Based on that, my educated guess is that a cup of coffee will run you about $39.95 at the MGM Grand that night. Pay-per-brew.

Sure hope this fight is better than one I covered in Las Vegas in 1995. Mike Tyson was making his comeback after three years in prison for a rape conviction and the opponent was Peter McNeeley, supposedly the WBA’s seventh-ranked heavyweight. Not sure who was ranked No. 8 at the time but it couldn’t have been much of an honor.

Iron Mike needed 10 seconds to knock McNeeley down and another 79 to do it again. Before you knew it, the challenger’s manager was jumping into the ring to stop the fight, which appealed to Tyson’s gentler side.

“Eventually he was going to get hurt,” Tyson said. “You know me. I’m a blood man. I like to finish it.”

Associated Press photo
Associated Press photo

McNeeley’s part in the post-fight news conference was to field a few softballs from reporters planted by his team and then to shout at legitimate media members who sat there stone-faced, impatient for Tyson’s arrival.

“Let’s hear some more,” McNeeley howled. “How ‘bout some questions?”

The only one I could think of was “Why didn’t you go into a saner profession, like bull-riding? You’ve only got to last eight seconds to be a winner there.”

Didn’t ask it, though. McNeeley had already played his part, and we were all on deadline.

Oh, and I’m picking Mayweather Saturday.