Hard-hitting Heavyweight China Smith continues his climb back towards the top, when he takes on Mike Sheppard for the vacant World Boxing Federation (WBF) North America title on June 13 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa Bay, Florida.
Promoted by Jie Chen, the show has been labeled ”Thunder At The Forum”, and a big turn-out is expected to support Smith (34-4, 27 KOs) from nearby Sarasota against the battle-tested Sheppard (21-16-1, 9 KOs), who hails from Palestine, West Virginia.
Now 35-years-old, Smith turned pro in 1997 and won his first 23 fights, 22 inside the distance, before being derailed in two consecutive losses to Mexican Saul Montana in 2002. Over the next four years he won ten of twelve bouts, but for various reasons it looked as if 2006 would be his last year as an active fighter.
However, “The Dragon”, as Smith was nicknamed early on, found opportunity and motivation to fight again in 2013, and after almost seven years on the sidelines he returned to action last July and stopped former world title-challenger Rubin Williams in seven rounds at the Bradenton Area Convention Center.
Mike Sheppard also made his entrance to the paid ranks in 2007, and over the following seventeen years he has fought notable names such as Clifford Etienne, Denis Boytsov, Ruslan Chagaev and Antonio Tarver, just to name a few.
At 39 he has seen better days, but he always comes to fight and is game. Beating China Smith and winning the WBF North America title will be a second chance for Sheppard to make a mark in boxing, and for Smith it will be a second chance to get back on track towards a world title shot.