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Remembering Shelby Walker - 1 Year Later
Posted on 09.26.2007 at 12:01 PM

Remembering Shelby Walker - 1 Year Later

By Larry Goldberg

It is so hard to believe it has been a year since I got that tragic call. It still feels like yesterday when I got the news that Shelby had passed away. I think about her everyday.

One day I got call from her and she said, "Larry, you are going to manage me and we are going to take over the world." We came so close.

Shelby Walker was one of the more charismatic performers the sport of mixed martial arts has seen, Shelby Walker combined a fierce competitive spirit with an engaging personality to become a star. Walker brought a sense of glamour to the sport, and was not only a boxer who fought for world championships but also one of the pioneer female competitors in mixed martial arts.

Walker, a native of Kingsville, Texas, spent five years in the United States Army, then unleashed herself on the fighting world. She began as a mixed martial artist, then a year later started also fighting hands-only. Not possessing much in the way of finesse or pure technique, she made up for it with a tenacity that was rare to find - even on the men's side. Never was that fury more prominently on display than in her third MMA fight, held May 3, 2002 at the Ring of Fury event in Boston. It was a record-breaking performance. She met up with Angela Wilson that night, and scored a five-second knockout that to this day, remains the quickest KO effort in the history of the sport.

Welcomed by many independent promoters, Shelby's aspiration was to compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but unfortunately that organization's policies did not allow for the inclusion of female competitors. If it had, Shelby Walker would certainly have carried the banner well for the women side.

Walker received quite a bit of play from the mainstream and internet media, as well as sponsors, and was the subject of many featured articles. Writers ate up her story, as coming from a humble background, not to mention the U.S. military, she was making a mark in not one, but two different combat sports.

Her boxing career had its highs and lows. She was talented enough to have attracted the attention of former standout pro boxers-turned-trainers like Howard Davis Jr. and Buddy McGirt, who both worked with her at one time. And she was a member of the prestigious American Top Team (ATT) in Coconut Creek, FL. But her training habits were not often the best, and she failed to reach her full fighting potential.

Walker fought twice for world titles - in May of 2004 she was beaten by Emiko Raika for the Women's International Boxing Association (WIBA) featherweight championship, and fifteen months later Jamie Clampitt defeated her for the International Women's Boxing Federation (IWBF) lightweight crown. In may of 2005 she lost to Mia St. John in what turned out to be her final pro fight.

Shelby came from a troubled background, with, frankly, an unstable childhood and dysfunctional family life. Sometimes demons from the past have a way of rearing their ugly head, no matter what life's little success may bring. As it appeared her fighting career was winding down, and ambitions aimed at becoming a television announcer and reality show star were on the horizon, however depression may have been setting in.

On September 24, 2006, police in Fort Lauderdale, Florida found Shelby Walker in a hotel room, dead from an apparent overdose of pain medication. Some things about it may be unexplained, but one thing that is undisputed is that Shelby often fought through the pain with much courage and success.

She was so loved and missed by her friends and family.

Larry Goldberg can be reached at He is working on a book chronicling Shelby Walker's life and career.
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