WORCESTER, Mass. Junior middleweight "Irish" Chuck Shearns will become the second-oldest professional fighter in Massachusetts boxing history on Thursday night, January 19, in his farewell performance at the Worcester Palladium, marking the first pro boxing event in Worcester, located in Central Mass., in more than five years.
The inaugural "New England's Future" series event is being presented by Rivera Promotions Entertainment (RPE), which is owned and operated by one of Worcester's all-time greatest boxers - 3-time, 2-division world champion Jose Antonio "El Gallo" Rivera - and his son, Anthonee "AJ" Rivera.
Rising junior lightweight prospect, 2015 New England Golden Gloves champion Irvin Gonzalez (4-0, 4 KOs), will be fighting at home in the 6-round main event against Mexican invader Oscar Eduardo Quezada (2-1, 1 KO), while Springfield (MA) light heavyweight Reinaldo "Bazooka" Graceski (4-0, 2 KOs) meets Worcester's Ralph Johnson (2-9, 1 KO) in the six-round co-feature.
The 49-year-old Shearns (2-1, 1 KO), who is the general manager of Lundgren Honda in Auburn, will take on Shavonte Dixon (0-1), of Philadelphia, in a four-round bout. The state record, set in 2011 by then 53-year-old Joe Siciliano, is safe because Jan. 19th will definitely be Shearns' last fight.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for all boxers in terms of what they go through to be able to perform at their best in the ring," promoter Jose Antonio Rivera said. "Chuck is doing it at 49 years old! That takes a lot of sacrifice and courage to put your body through that rugged training. I wish him the best and I am glad I can provide him with the opportunity to be able to say goodbye to boxing on his own terms."
Shearns made his amateur debut at the age of 29, 10 years later he made his professional debut. "I grew up watching boxing with my father (John), who boxed in the Navy, and my grandfather (John)," Shearns explained. "My grandfather was a club fighter, so, boxing was in my blood. I only had four amateur fights and one day I met "Fitzy," who is now one of my closest friends. (Sean Fitzgerald, one of Worcester's all-time best boxers, who is Shearns' head trainer.) I told him I wanted one pro fight and asked him to train me."
Why, though, at the age of 49 does he still put himself through such extensive training, while working fulltime during the holiday season, to fight an opponent half his age?
"Boxing was the ultimate hobby for me and I just got carried away with it," Shearns admitted. "I'm a novelty, not a real pro boxer. I'm fighting January 19th because I was given this opportunity and decided to accept it but, honestly, I'm sure that this it! Maybe I just wanted a chance to go out with a win because I lost my last one? I don't know. Sometimes I wake up asking myself, 'What am I doing?' And 'Fitzy' is working me so hard for this fight - I don't know if it's my age or what - but I've hated every minute of it. I lost my father in March. He was always in my corner and this fight I'll have RIP on my trunks in his honor."
Lately, Shearns' typical day has been, well, in a word, unordinary, to say the least. He reports to work at 5 a.m., exercises and runs on the treadmill for an hour in a small gym at work, catches up with "Fitzy" at Anytime Fitness to hit the heavy and speed bags, and after work "Fitzy" trains Shearns at Camp Get Right.
Shearns has the complete support of his family and co-workers, who will all be at the Worcester Palladium supporting him Jan. 19. "My wife (Karen) and two daughters (Kayla and Olivia) have always been there for me," Shearns noted. "My wife supports me and has jokingly said, 'We're getting divorced if you lose this fight.' I've worked at Lundgren Honda for about 20 years and most of the 100-plus employees there will be at my fight. I did want to fight one more time before I turn 50. When Jose asked me to fight, how could I pass up this final opportunity?"
Also fighting on the undercard in 4-round bouts are Worcester junior lightweight Ranse Andino in his pro debut vs. Lowell's (MA) Jonathan Perez (2-0-1, 2 KOs), pro-debuting Worcester heavyweight Felix Martinez vs. Dorchester's (MA) Brian Richardson (0-8), Hartford's (CT) pro-debuting light heavyweight Richard "Popeye The Sailor Man" Rivera vs. Brockton's (MA) Huston Crayton (1-8, 0 KOs), pro-debuting Southbridge (MA) boxer Wilfredo Pagan vs. Puerto Rican Alexander Picot (1-1-1, 0 KOs) at a 145-pound catchweight, pro-debuting Springfield (MA) junior featherweight Luis "Pancho" Santiago vs, Mexican Jonathan Ramos (1-2, 0 KOs), 2016 N.W. Golden Gloves champion Anthony Laureano (1-0), of East Haven (CT), vs. Boston junior welterweight Rafael Francis (0-8), Saugus (MA) light heavyweight Brandon Montella (5-0, 4 KOs) vs. Mexican veteran Roberto El Viejo" Valenzuela (69-73-2, 56 KOs) and unbeaten Lawrence (MA) heavyweight Jean Pierre Augstin (7-0-1, 3 KOs).
All fights and fighters are subject to change.
Tickets, priced at $65.00 (ringside), $45.00 (preferred seating) and $35.00 (general admission), are on sale and available to purchase at www.ThePalladium.net or the Palladium box office (general admission only), or by contacting Jose Rivera (email@example.com/508.864.6954), AJ Rivera (firstname.lastname@example.org/774.272.2269) of any of the fighters. A portion of the proceeds will go to Why Me & Sherry's House.
Major event sponsors include Lundgren Honda, Atty. Michael H. Erlich, Atty. Maria M. Rivera-Cotto and USANA Health Services. Other sponsors are TKO Auto Repair and Atty. Stephen W. Debs.
Twitter: @RiveraPromoEnt @joseriverachamp