PAWTUCKET – Jeff Shabo’s date with destiny has finally arrived.
The Pawtucket boxer, who at the spry age of 58, can be found in his spare time working out and training young fighters at Grundy’s Gym in Central Falls, will get his long-awaited opportunity to fight for a championship belt on Saturday afternoon.
Shabo will be in action at the 3rd annual Rude Dog Masters World Championships, which is labeled as “the largest international masters boxing competition on the planet,” at the Rude Dog Boxing complex just over the state line in Brooklyn, Conn.
The event, which Shabo described as “the Golden Gloves tournament for older guys,” was supposed to take place 16 months ago, but no thanks to the COVID pandemic, the date got switched three times, but will finally take place in front of a packed house at the Vina Lane facility.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” added Shabo. “There are a lot of people that are supporting me. A lot of friends and family members are going to go to the fight, and my brother is coming down from Maine, so it should be exciting. I’m looking forward to it.”
Shabo, who graduated from Tolman High in 1982 where he was a three-sport athlete and an All-Division lineman on the football team, will be fighting for his first title, something he wasn’t able to do when he joined the amateur boxing ranks after graduating from high school.
In 1983, Shabo was supposed to fight in the Southern New England Golden Gloves tournament, but a health issue prevented him from lacing up his gloves. And when he soon joined the work force, got married, and began a family in North Providence, he quietly distanced himself from boxing.
But six years ago, Shabo found himself stepping back into the ring when his 15-year-old son, Brian, took an interest in “the sweet science” and wanted to train at a gym. Shabo located the venerable Grundy’s Gym and joined his son for workouts.
It didn’t take long for Shabo’s love of boxing to be rekindled, and before he knew it, he took part in four fights on the popular ICON Boxing Club series in Bristol and three shows that were hosted by Rude Dog Boxing.
When the pandemic shut down boxing gyms throughout the region last year, Shabo found himself working “84 hours a week” at two nearby Stop & Shop locations and trying to get in some workouts in his house. But when gyms reopened earlier this year, Shabo quickly got back in the swing of things.
These days, Shabo will admit that he still has his “normal getting-older aches and pains, but I’m hanging in there,” he added. And even though he hurt his shoulder at a “smoker” fight two months ago in Brooklyn, “I’m still not 100 percent, but I’m going to get through it.”
Shabo, who hurt his shoulder “right out of the gate,” admitted that he didn’t do well in that bout and probably shouldn’t have fought, especially since both of his parents were in the hospital, “but as they say, fighters fight,” he added.
Unfortunately for Shabo, his father, George, died in late June, and he plans to dedicate this weekend’s performance to him. Shabo’s son, Brian, and Mike Principe, who is one of the trainers at Grundy’s Gym, will work Shabo’s corner.
As for Saturday’s show, Shabo, who currently weighs 207 pounds, knows very little about the opponent he will face, except that “he’s 59 and about 230 pounds, and he’s making his debut at Rude Dog,” he added. “And I’m not sure if (the rounds) are a minute or a minute-and-a-half, but you basically have to come out and just start throwing punches. The judges aren’t going to look at someone dancing around and stuff like that. You have to throw punches.”
“We’ll see what happens,” Shabo continued. “It’s so hard to train and stay in shape, but my goal is to win this belt. It’s a dream of mine because I missed the Golden Gloves when I was younger, and this is my opportunity to jump on it and go after it.”