When it gets to the championship rounds and Stephan Shaw has to dig deep to win the big fight, don’t worry about him hitting the wall. He’s been there already. Literally.
And there are the marks to prove it.
“I used to hit the wall and hitting the wall became my opponent, my sparring partner,” said Shaw, laughing about how he used to wear his TUF-Wear gloves around the house as a kid, determined that one day he would be a boxer. “I used to be down in the basement, hitting the wall, chipping the paint off, there was glove coloring all over it. I pretty much knew that boxing was for me.”
That was just the training part of it. When the big fights would come on TV, the St. Louis native would crank up the volume as loud as he could, and when the bell rang, he got to work on that wall.
“Every round I came out and hit the wall, and when the round was over, I’d go sit down,” he said, also pointing out that just like real boxing, there were hecklers in the crowd.
“My mom didn't really love it. She used to yell down to the basement, ‘Stop hitting that wall.’”
Shaw laughs as he details just how much he loves the sport that became his day job and the vocation that he hopes will one day result in a world championship. The 28-year-old is off to a good start on that goal, as he’s 14-0 with 10 KOs, and with a formidable 6-foot-4 frame and plenty of work in the gym with the likes of former heavyweight champions Deontay Wilder and Andy Ruiz Jr., the potential for big things is right around the corner.
In many ways, the first big thing should have taken place in April when he was matched up with fellow unbeaten Jermaine Franklin in a Ring City USA televised main event, but when Franklin tested positive for COVID-19, that was that. It was the news Shaw didn’t need to hear, especially after a 2020 campaign that saw two fights get scrapped due to the pandemic. He did get one bout in, a December shutout over Lyubomyr Pinchuk, and that was enough for the upbeat Shaw to keep from calling 2020 the worst year ever.
“It wasn't the worst,” he said. “I'd say a couple years before then was the worst, when it wasn't a pandemic, and I was on the shelf for a year. I feel like that was probably the worst time of my life. 2020 was definitely tough; it was definitely an adjustment because two of my fights fell through and I was looking forward to picking up where I left off in 2019 and just keeping that train going, but it kinda slowed down. And in December, I fought, I had a good fight, I was the lightest I'd ever been in my career, and I was just happy to be back in the ring and I took full advantage of it.”
Shaw was ready to take advantage in April, but, that’s the name of the game these days in a world that is starting to get back to normal, but that isn’t quite there yet. So Shaw plays the heavywaiting game, hoping to get a stay-busy fight in soon before chasing the next big opportunity. That waiting is the bad part; the good part is that he’s never been one to stay idle, and after working with Wilder for his now-postponed third fight with Tyson Fury, Shaw will be ready when the phone rings.
“Last year was a sporadic year,” he said. “You didn't know what was gonna happen, so I just made sure I stayed ready and that's what it's about being a professional boxer. It's always staying ready so it won't be so hard to get ready. You still gotta go to camp and put in that extra intensity of training, but I just made sure I was in good shape and I maintained it.”
That’s not easy without the reward of a fight at the end of the training tunnel, but that discipline is what separates the ones who make it from the weekend warriors. That, and a little bit of love.
“You gotta love what you do and I love what I do,” Shaw said. “And I have two children at home and they're a part of my motivation. They're probably my biggest motivators, and that's in life, not just boxing. But the desire to want to be champion and wanting to be great keeps me motivated. I want to be prepared for every bout and I’ll take that with me from here on out. You never know what can happen, so always stay ready, stay sharp and always stay motivated because this is what I love to do.”
That love of the game is starting to be passed on to his sons, eight-year-old Zahmir and four-year-old Zahke, though it’s Zahmir that is really starting to get the itch to have the gloves on and tag along with dad to the gym. That’s not a surprise, especially since boxing is in the blood thanks to Shaw’s grandfather Buddy and father Brian, both respected figures on the St. Louis fight scene. They brought Stephan to the gym when he was a kid, and while seeing KO Magazine posters in the gym caught his eye, it was watching the amateurs that really hooked him.
“Of course, I saw boxing on TV, but I fell in love with going to amateur fights and it was like, 'These are little kids boxing,'” he laughs. “And then I'm seeing the trophies and around the mid to late-90s, guys were coming back from the national silver gloves with belts and stuff like that, and I'm like, 'Man.' (Laughs) It was everything about it.”
Shaw had gloves on at around the same age Zahmir is now. How does he feel about having his first born in the gym with him and possibly wanting to box?
“Man, you really have to love this,” Shaw said. “Don't just do it because daddy does it. You gotta really love it and if he truly loves the sport and I see the dedication that I feel that he's ready to do this, I'm gonna support him a hundred and ten percent and I'm still gonna be trying to slide a baseball or soccer ball or basketball in his hand. (Laughs) I truly want him to do something else, but again, if he's motivated and willing to learn and doing all the right stuff, I can't do nothing but support him.”
So if Zahmir does decide to take that next step in the sport, when does dad have that conversation with him about a sport that isn’t exactly known for its pristine image or having a level playing field?
“Right now, I don't really want to have that conversation because he has to be a little bit older to really understand and grasp what I'm telling him about that kind of stuff,” Shaw said. “He really loves boxing because he sees me. As a father, I'm his biggest influence, and I try to be a great and positive influence and role model for him. If he truly wants to box, then that's when I'll lay all that stuff out there - what I call the dark side of boxing.”
Shaw chuckles, knowing that while this is a dirty game at times, at others, it can be the one thing he would rather do more than anything. Those moments in the ring, they can make dealing with all the garbage worth it. And that’s why he does it. It’s for those moments, and he hopes to get some more of them before the end of the year.
“I'm definitely ready for it,” he said. “I've been waiting for it for a while. I've been pro since 2013 and I've just been waiting on this moment.”