Restless after football ended and before baseball practice began at , Russell Shiflett and his buddies began fooling around with boxing between seasons.
“Me and a bunch of my friends went to Sports Authority, bought some gloves and started throwing hands in our backyard,” the 31-year-old Shiflett recalls.
One of his friends, Shane Ensor, grew tired of taking beatings from Shiflett, an All-County linebacker at the time, and secretly began taking lessons at Baltimore Boxing.
“Shane thought we should try getting some real instruction and suggested Baltimore Boxing,” Shiflett says. “We trained for a few days, then we got into the ring for a sparring session. After three rounds he had bloodied my nose pretty bad. The coaches were laughing when it was over and that's when they told me that Shane had been training for six months to prepare for me.
“After that, I was hooked.”
Fast forward 15 years, after several career stops and starts—and injuries—the fighter’s professional record stands at 10-0-1.
After winning a Maryland state championship and Maryland Golden Gloves novice championship as an amateur boxer in the late 1990s, Shiflett suffered elbow and shoulders injuries as a young pro, setting back his development. Shiflett also admits he didn’t always pursue the sport seriously, adding that becoming a father directed his attention elsewhere as well.
Approaching 30, he re-committed to boxing in late 2009. He still regrets not playing college football after a high school knee injury.
“Basically, it was now or never,” says Shifflet, who also has begun promoting fights. “I wanted to try it while I still could. I also wanted to develop a program where I could bring up other people—young fighters—with me.”
About a year ago Shiflett, a southpaw, began training with James Hogan, a professional trainer.
“The sky is the limit for Russ,” said Hogan. “He is so very coachable. He is a well-rounded fighter who is very strong for his weight. He has a boxer’s style, he can get inside and impose his will or he can stay outside and be a counter puncher. Whatever the game plan calls for, Russ can finish the job.”
Hogan used his experience to evaluate Shiflett, working to maintain his strengths, balance and natural athleticism, and improve on his weaknesses.
Shiflett has been fighting as a cruiserweight (176 pounds to 199 pounds), but is looking to drop to light heavyweight (175 pounds or less). He’s looking to keep improving his record and climb the rankings, and hopes to earn a title fight down the line.
Currently, he works as a trainer and boxing coach at Ground Control in Owings Mills.
“I am kind of lucky,” Shiflett says. “A lot of guys take the blue collar route, where they are working a 9-5 and have to train around that. I get to be in the gym every day ,working and training with other fighters. That makes all the difference.”
Most recently, the Dundalk native defeated Ariel Espianal on March 26 in the main event of a professional card in West Virginia.
“I wanted to establish my jab early,” Shiflett says. “He hardly touched me. He was loading up for all his shots and I was just countering. In the third round, I started to really work his body and I could tell I was hurting him. In the fourth and final round, I decided I was going to take him out. I hit him with a left hook to the body and he doubled over.”
The fight was stopped after that—Espianal spit out his mouthpiece and argued with the referee, earning a disqualification.
Shiflett's next fight is this Friday, April 15, against Willie Chislom. It's the main event of United Boxer's card at the Maryland Sportsplex in Millersville.
Seeing a demand for local fights, Shiflett has partnered with John Rallo of Shogun Fights and Mike Paschall to create Bang Time Boxing.
Bang Time Boxing will showcase both professional and amateur fighters on June 17 at Du Burns Arena in Canton. Shiflett will also fight on that card.
“Eventually, I’d like to grow out of being a club fighter, fighting in front of 1,000 or 2,000 people,” Shifflet says. “I’d love to fight in front of 10,000 or 15,000 downtown at the Baltimore Arena. I’m realistic—I’m 31. I’m not going to be upset if it doesn’t happen. At least I’ll know I went for it.”
Tickets can be purchased by e-mailing Shiflett at Russell@groundcontrolom.com.
Dundalk Patch Local Editor Ron Cassie contributed to this story.