Calvin Sheppard Jr. made his boxing coach a promise to look after Port Arthur outreach

Published 12:36 am Sunday, January 30, 2022

Calvin Sheppard Jr.’s life has not been easy. At 10 years old, he saw his father killed in front of him.

He was also forced to medically retire from the military with a list of injuries. However, had it not been for the adversity, Sheppard would likely not have the opportunity to be a positive influence on Southeast Texas youth.

He has not had a typical path to becoming a boxing coach. Despite his father being a world champion fighter, the younger Sheppard did not pick up the sport until he was in the military.

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And, as one would expect, witnessing his father’s death was traumatizing.

“It was a dispute over my oldest brother that turned fatal,” Sheppard said. “The person has been convicted and sentenced to 40 or 50 years. I can’t remember exactly. I was pretty young. That affected my life in my later years, not having that male.”

Since his dad’s death, Calvin’s uncle, Kenneth Sheppard, stepped in and provided a positive influence.

“I understand a lot of these kids that have an absent father,” he said. “I understand what that gym does. It gives them a safe place. That was something I didn’t have. All I had was my mind and believing that I wanted to be better than my environment. I am glad I had that, because it made me a better person, a soldier in the Army, a better coach and a better father. I know the importance of being present.”

During his time in the Army, Calvin served multiple tours in Iraq and racked up a litany of injuries that ultimately forced him to retire.

“I have a traumatic brain injury,” he said. “One is from an explosion. I banged my head in an armored vehicle. I had combat-related injuries, PTSD… If I had to do it again, I would do it.”

Between deployments in the Army in 2006, Calvin joined Lion Hearted Boxing, where his uncle was a coach.

“During my deployments, I started training with guys that were on the All-Army team,” he said. “When I got to the gym, I told them what my plans were. In January 2007, a few of us decided we were going to start competing in Golden Gloves.”

Calvin spoke with Eddie Brown, who owned the gym.

“He always welcomed me with open arms,” Calvin Sheppard said.

After his medical retirement in 2012, Calvin was looking for his next move. He had spent nearly a year in intensive care in San Antonio. After a few years passed, he began to look for ways to make an impact in the world.

“My career as a boxer was over and I came back and decided to volunteer as a coach,” he said. “It was a six-month plan. I was building a house in Katy. It was March of 2016. Six months turned into six years.”

Extension occurred when Brown was diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer.

“In the midst of building my house, I was, kind of, running away,” Calvin Sheppard said. “(Brown) found out about the cancer. I made a promise to him. We all thought he would beat it. He was that type of person. If anyone could beat it, it would be him. I told him that I wouldn’t leave. After that, I discovered that this is where I needed to be.”

Calvin Sheppard has found meaning in his teaching.

“What we do with these kids is bigger than boxing,” Calvin said. “If you come to the gym, I don’t care if you compete, if you are here, I can talk to you. I can spend time with you. That is why I do it.”