Balance: Shannon ‘Shaggy’ King

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International Kickboxer Magazine, May/June 2014

Shannon “Shaggy” King is a man whose biggest fight has been to strike the ideal balance between working and fighting.

“I’ve always been more of a businessman than a fighter,” says Shaggy. “I’ve never been able to fight full-time.” This was a significant part of the motivation for Shaggy to leave NTG and start up his own gym, Corporate Box.

“Because I had to work and fight, there was one fight I took where I was only able to train three times in the lead-up. I’ve set up Corporate Box so work comes first. I employ full-time pad-holders. That way, if you can’t make classes, you call in when you can. Our gym is 24/7. The problem with other fight gyms is that you either make it to class or you don’t.”

That said, Shaggy has nothing but praise for his former trainer, Nugget.

“At NTG, you 100% got the training. I think the three best trainers in the country are Preacher, Aaron Smith and Nugget. For two reasons: one, they live for it. The other reason is because they’ve had a lot of fights; [they have] been through every scenario. They aren’t thinking about what it is they are seeing; they can answer your question because they’ve experienced it.”

Shaggy sums up a good trainer very simply.

“The number one thing in a trainer is reliability. When you fight, there’s only one belt, not one for you and your trainer. That’s because the fighter is in the ring and actually does most of the work. But a good trainer is the one who makes it happen.”

Shaggy has learned these lessons well and now applies them himself as a trainer.

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He began playing a range of sports, before becoming ‘a big muscly kid’ by his own admission, and eventually growing tired of weight training, also. One day, he rode his bike past a Zen Do Kai school and decided to go inside and take a look.

“I was training for about a month and had my first fight. I think I had two fights there and I moved on to NTG. I needed to find somewhere consistent.”

Shaggy found consistency at NTG, along with high-quality training. He remained there for many years, amassing a total of nineteen fights. During that time, he suffered a nasty interruption to his career – a broken neck.

“I was out one night with Preacher and it had been raining. I slipped on the gutter and fell on my neck. At first, I had a really sore neck. Then, I started to get pins and needles in my hand, and then the week after, I had them all down my arm. I went to the doctor after my thumb became paralyzed.”

The road to recovery was a slow one.

“They tried all different things for about four months, but it didn’t work, so I had an operation. In the end, they put four screws and a metal plate in my spine. I fought about two months after the operation.”

That doesn’t sound like the kind of outcome a doctor would have supported, but Shaggy says it was never considered a problem.

“The doctor said it was all okay. That’s is technology for you. Had I done it five years earlier, I would have been a neck brace and all kinds of other trouble.”

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Shaggy’s first opponent back from surgery was Andrew Keogh on Evolution.

“I won the fight but to tell you the truth, it could have gone either way. I fought him again though, and it was clearer the second time.”

Shaggy was no stranger to surgical reconstruction, having damaged his hand fighting Simon Black.

“I KOed [Black] in the second round and shattered my hand. He was fifteen and ‘0’, I was fourteen and one, I think. I ended up with twenty-one screws in my right hand.”

That injury became the cornerstone of a strength.

“Because of the broken hand, I had to work on my left. I had developed it to the point where it’s now the more dangerous weapon.”

When asked if the power in his hands became an entree into boxing, Shaggy responds in a more matter-of fact way.

“Anthony Mundine was looking for sparring in Brisbane, so he had heard about me somehow and came to the gym. We hammered each other ! He asked if could come back, and I became a regular sparring partner. I met his manager, Khoder Nasser, and I decided to start boxing because I felt I did ok.”

It turned out to be a very successful venture, with Shaggy having seven fights for seven wins, all seven of which, until recently, came by way of knockout. The seventh win bought him a professional Australian boxing title at 69.85 kilograms. That win goes down as his proudest achievement in the ring.

“The fight was broadcast live on Foxtel. I burst my eardrum at the start of the fourth, and I was cut above and below my eye. I wanted out of there, but my corner weren’t going to let me and I didn’t want to give up, either. In the end, I KOed him in the ninth round.”

Shaggy’s involvement with boxing has grown. A number of NRL players have made successful ventures into the sport, training and fighting out of his Corporate Box gym.

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“When Anthony Mundine had his Brisbane show, Sonny Bill Williams came here to train. Quade Cooper wanted to fight, and I was asked if I’d train him. I don’t train anybody, but I trained him and he enjoyed it, and so did I. He has a great work ethic. He’s had two fights now and he’s won them both. I think he’s absolutely awesome; he could easily be a full-time boxer.”

Shaggy has had a very successful foray into boxing, suffering his first loss – and subsequent loss of title – to Sam Ahsee in Orange, New South Wales. It was a very close fight with little, if anything, separating the two fighters.

“My next fight might be a mandatory rematch. We’ll wait and see what comes of that.

While Shaggy has made the most of his boxing experience, he’s still a Thai boxer, first and foremost. When asked to describe the distinction between them, his answer is simple.

“With boxing, the fighting is easy, but the training is boring. Most of the trauma in boxing is in the sparring, not the fighting. When [Anthony] Mundine comes here, he’s doing twelve rounds with three fighters and he probably does that three times a week. You don’t do that with Thai boxing.”

In addition, the styles are very different.

“You’ve got to move more in boxing; you need to be more rigid and tougher in Thai boxing. Thai boxing is more about damage. You can’t bring your head down in Thai either, because of the danger of being kicked or kneed in the head. In boxing, you can duck as much as you want.”

Shannon has fought in Thailand numerous times, with the pinnacle of his achievements being an inclusion on Thai Fight, the Thai promotion looking to bring Thai boxing to an international audience.

“I fought a Finnish fighter named Antero Hynynen. I had kidney stones the day before, at the weigh-in. I didn’t feel too good and discussed it with the promoter, but was shown the bit in the contract that said I’d have to pay five times my purse if I chose not to fight, for whatever reason. I couldn’t afford that, so I fought anyway. I lost on points.”

At the age of 36, Shaggy can lay claim to more experience than most, and is utilizing it in the same way he has identified in his mentors, Nugget and Preacher. He’s going to continue to fight, until his body gives him the signal.

“I’m feeling pretty good. I might not be as busy, but I think I’ll keep chugging along.”

Chugging along will require him to refocus the goal he has already achieved with Corporate Box, a gym with over sixty active fighters, which makes it the busiest gym in Australia.

“I need to figure out some way to set up the gym so I can turn into a full-time fighter. If I don’t do it, I’ll regret it. I don’t want to be one of those people who say, ‘would have could have should have.”

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