|Remembering Shelby ‘Girl’ Walker 1975-2006
By Benny Henderson Jr - A.K.A "Big Dog" (Sep 25, 2006) Photo © Tom Casino
I remember reading the dreadful news on the untimely death of the lady combatant Shelby Walker while strumming through the boxing news just two days after her death. My first reaction in seeing the headline was of course disbelief, maybe it was a mishap on the heading or something to that effect, but it could not be the same Shelby Walker whom I befriended just a little over a year ago while conducting a few interviews with her on her professional career for Doghouse Boxing and Max Fighting. When I realized that it was ‘Shelby Girl’ my initial emotion was a bit of sickness in my stomach, a gut wrenching feeling to be exact, just to know that such a young lady with so much before her had lost her life in an unfortunate tragic fashion ripped through my emotions. Truth is her sudden death shocked all in the fight world that knew of this little tough Texan, who although a lady outside of the ring she damn sure didn’t mind mixing it up like a maniac inside of it!
“We lost a great one,” explained Shelby’s manager Larry Goldberg, “I feel like I have lost my sister, she was one of the nicest, fun loving, genuine people I have ever met in my entire life.”
Hailing from south Texas, Shelby was seemingly born to fight. One not to take no for an answer or to be overlooked by anybody she believed being a woman should not stop her from accomplishing her dreams, when she was told that she would not take the service seriously, she joined the US Army, and when the critics spewed out negativity in saying that she was just another pretty face and would not be taken seriously as a fighter, well…she fought.
“It’s hard to be taken seriously sometimes especially a lot of the men in the sport still see it as a man's sport,” explained Shelby in a past interview. “I guess they are going to have to sit back and watch and the critics who think I can’t fight need to watch one of my fights.”
Shelby trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and was awarded her blue belt from MMA legend Royce Gracie, whom she stated was one of her biggest MMA heroes. Her affection for fighting was always prevalent but it became reality in 2001 when Walker made her MMA debut that November at the Hook ‘n’ Shoot, and although her bid for victory was sideswiped with back-to-back losses in the no holds barred sport she rallied on and in her third attempt Walker not only won her first bout but won in KO fashion, knocking out her opponent Angela Wilson in just five seconds of round one at USMMA 3 Ring of Fury. Shelby went on to compile a 2-3 record in the MMA and the fighter that she was also broadened her fight game in competing in the ‘sweet science’.
‘Shelby Girl’ began her quest as a professional pugilist in the fall of 2002 banging out a second round TKO over Christmas Davis. Walker won her first two bouts via knock out before losing out her first fight unanimously by the four fight veteran Julia Day in early 2003. Shelby’s boxing career could be characterize as up and down, and although she was unsuccessful in three attempts at a title she did succeed in winning over the fans with her heroism win, lose or draw, critics couldn’t deny the fact that she was truly a fighter with a warrior’s heart. Howard Davis Jr trained Shelby and she was appreciative and excited to be under his tutelage. She lived and breathed fighting and certainly did not want to be credited with just being another pretty face in the crowd as she once explained in a past interview: “I work so hard; I dedicate all my time, energy, blood and bruises to my career. I really want people to know that and to understand that this means a lot to me, it means everything to me.”
Shelby was scheduled to return to the ring in November and was ready to make another run at a championship, but the first lady of American Top Team’s dreams of becoming a world champion vanished when she passed away the 24th of September from what has been described as an overdose on pain medication, ending with a boxing record of 7-6-1 (6). “She was a wonderful person who inspired many people, however she succumbed to personal demons,” explained Larry Goldberg. “Shelby was loved and will be greatly missed by all that knew her, I am praying for her and I hope that you all will be too. Shelby should be remembered as the fun loving beautiful person who was the life of any party and got to live her dream. There is so much about her life people never got to know. I had the privilege of managing her and befriending her and watching her fight two world champions and experienced with her the thrill of victory and agony of defeat.”
But even in defeat Shelby earned the respect from the fight world as well as her opposition. Boxing veteran and Shelby’s last opponent Mia St John had nothing but praise for her past opponent in giving a heartfelt statement to the Doghouse. “Shelby was a beautiful kind person with so much potential,” said St John. “Sometimes as fighters we have harsh words for our opponents prior to a fight, but Shelby spoke nothing but kind words to me, she will be missed.” Also touched by her passing was the former world champion and veteran trainer ‘Buddy’ McGirt, who helped Shelby train for her last about against St. John, McGirt told the Doghouse via phone: “Her death caught me by surprise, I really don’t know what to say. I am kind of at a loss of words, she was a beautiful person and she will be missed.”
Walker who touched many lives in the boxing community will be missed by the entire fistic family, and for her endeavors won respect. Female world champion Kelsey Jeffries was quoted: “I do know that she was a fighter in all definitions of the word ‘fighter’ and she will be missed personally and in the boxing community.” Walker’s presence had influences on non fighters as well as explained boxing photographer Emily Harney: “I had the honor of photographing her last year, she was cool and such a wonderful girl who will be greatly missed.”
One of the women fighters who paved the way for other ladies in the sport whom Shelby looked up to so greatly was Christy Martin, who was affected deeply by Shelby’s passing. Martin offered up her condolences: “We at Team Martin want to send our deepest sympathy to Shelby Walker's family. Shelby was a very nice person that brought lots of class to the world of boxing. I was extremely impressed with her last year when we sparred a few rounds as we were both preparing for our next fights. I was as impressed with her as a person as I was about her tremendous heart and skills.”
Loved ones, fans, friends and her team at American Top Team should not dwell on her death but celebrate her life,
although her time on this Earth was cut short, and her era in the fight world was abrupt, her influence on the sport and individuals in and out of it will be ever lasting.
On a personal note I was honored to meet Shelby, she was an amazing young lady with so much potential; the girl was a fighter through and through and displayed a warrior's heart! She earned my respect for the simple fact that she wasn't afraid of a fight, in life or in the ring she did the best with her God given abilities. No matter the opponent, no matter the situation or the outcome she gave it her all and win lose or draw she remained a humble fighter. In person Shelby had a warm smile, an outgoing personality, appreciative of the fans and respectful to her opponents, she was a class act in the sport and will be greatly missed in the fistic family. It was an honor to meet and get to know the person and fighter known as Shelby ‘Girl’ Walker.
In our first interview together Shelby who was speaking on her career in the fight world closed with this statement, “I definitely want to leave my mark.” Well I can honestly say that she did leave her mark and will no be forgotten.
I would like to thank all who participated in giving their thoughts on Shelby, all our prayers and thoughts from Doghouse Boxing goes out to the family. Shelby's funeral service will be held in Texas as well as a memorial at Cage Fury Oct 6, a trust fund will be opened for her son, check out www.shelbywalker.com for further information.
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