It all began with a raffle ticket in a young boy’s hand, a future foretold by a fundraiser.
Jordan Shimmell was 8 years old when his father and grandfather, both former amateur boxers, took him to a Golden Gloves tournament in his native Michigan.
During an intermission between bouts, a wide-eyed Shimmell was chosen at random to come into the ring and select the winner of a 50/50 raffle.
“Being in the ring, all eyes on me, I kind of liked the attention,” Shimmell says. “Shortly after that I went in the gym and started training. The rest is history.”
Well, that history is still being written, with another page to be added Saturday when Shimmell goes at it with fellow undefeated 200-pound prospect Isiah Thomas (14-0, 6 KOs) in Las Vegas, airing live on NBC Sports Network at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Both are decorated amateurs in their home state, especially Shimmell, a six-time Michigan Junior Olympics champ and winner of both the 2009 National Golden Gloves and USA Boxing National Championships, to name but a few of the titles he earned before turning pro.
As Shimmell and Thomas made their way up the amateur ranks, they were well aware of each other.
“He and I were the same age and always close to the same weight,” Shimmell says. “We fought each other when we were 14. I don’t really remember the fight, but I lost that one on points. He was obviously a good fighter as an amateur and is doing well as a pro. We’re expecting a good fight.”
With 16 knockouts in his 19 victories, Shimmell has developed a rep for closing shows early, turning out lights like a downed power line.
Only two of his fights have gone the distance thus far.
Those stats don’t tell the whole story, though: Shimmell’s far from a come-forward brawler looking to end things with the kind of single, devastating blow that turns tear ducts into sprinkler systems.
He’s a patient fighter who fancies himself a craftsman—he’s one outside the ring as well, having worked as a carpenter in residential construction fresh out of high school when he was getting his boxing career off the ground.
“I’m a pretty well-rounded fighter,” Shimmell says, which he thinks will be the difference against Thomas. “I can do a little bit of everything, so really, whatever he comes at me with or runs away from me with, it won’t be a problem. I think I’ll be able to handle it with ease.”
Part of Shimmell’s confidence is attributable to the environment in which he honed his skills as an amateur, training with fellow Michigan fighters—and future world champs—such as Anthony and Andre Dirrell and Peter Quillin.
“Petey was from our gym, so I worked and sparred with him often,” Shimmell says. “I could see the dedication that it took and the hard work that those guys put in and where it got them. So I just followed in their footsteps.”
As a pro, Shimmell hasn’t yet encountered guys of that caliber.
“I haven’t had any big challenges yet,” he says. “I’ve fought a few tough guys.”
On Saturday, he’ll fight another one. Different face, same approach.
“I just keep working hard and…yeah,” Shimmell says.
He doesn’t really have the words to finish his thought. That’s what his fists are for.
For complete coverage of Shimmell vs Thomas, visit our fight page.