Where is former 1940s light-heavyweight/heavyweight contender/warrior Curtis “Hatchetman” Sheppard? Is it possible Sheppard, at 102 years, is still alive? Check out the record books and stats, and there is much debate/mystery surrounding this amazingly tough fighter’s date of birth and date of death (if he has actually passed away; some reports saying he passed away in 1984, others placing a big ? next to his date of death).
The late, great Archie Moore, when asked in 1998 (this shortly before his own passing) who was the hardest puncher he ever met, replied “Curtis Hatchetman Sheppard.”
“I saw Sheppard hit opponents on the top of the head, in the forehead, and knock them out like he did have a hatchet in his hand,” Moore said. “I saw him hit a guy in the head and break his collarbone,” Moore also stated. (Archie met Sheppard twice, winning two won a non-title decision, firstly in January of 1946, this fight seeing Sheppard deck Moore twice, and then in a June of 1947 return).
So how good, how great, was Sheppard? It’s almost impossible to come up with an answer. Sheppard, who (officially) was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1919, went pro in September of 1938. He went on to face such superb fighters as – Moore, Jersey Joe Walcott, Jimmy Bivins, Joey Maxim (who Sheppard fought three times, knocking him out in their second fight; Sheppard the only man to ever KO Maxim, this in the first round), Lee Q Murray (X6), and Willie Reddish. An apparently violent man (in and out of the ring), Sheppard, who relocated to Pittsburgh, spent time in jail, yet he was by all accounts a superbly gifted amateur boxer.
As a pro, the 5’11” Sheppard was less skilled but far more powerful and dangerous, his right hand a genuinely fearsome weapon. Never allowed to develop his talent, Sheppard was chucked in deep early on (fighting a 22-9-1 Jersey Joe Walcott in his tenth pro fight!), yet he never ducked or feared any fighter. Who knows how far, how great this fighter could have gone had he been around today, with a big-money team looking after him?
Sheppard was not only a dangerous puncher, but he was also extremely tough and durable, with a chin to die for. Walcott couldn’t stop him (in their first fight), neither could Bivins or Lloyd Marshall (like Bivins, of “Black Murderer’s row” fame), and neither could Moore. In fact, Sheppard was stopped just five times. This, for a man who engaged in some 84 pro fights (officially, Curtis perhaps having more ring time), is quite incredible.
Sheppard never once fought for a world title; therefore, in the seemingly endless list of ‘greatest fighter never to have won a world title,’ his name has to rank prominently. Sheppard hung up his gloves in early 1949. Who knows what happened to him after that?
Sheppard’s final numbers read 51-33(33).
We really do need to see a documentary made about this so cruelly forgotten boxing great.