Philly’s James Shuler Memorial Gym the Foundation of Boxing Champions
BY: Diane Bennett www.diamondboxing.com
When you write about James Shuler Memorial Boxing Gym and its boxers your words need to be golden, each word needs to be carefully thought out each word must be crisp and precise. Most of all your thoughts need to have passion and desire, you need to be dedicated to your story and be able demonstrate commitment. Since these are the keys to the James Shuler Memorial Boxing Gym from the crispness of their hits, to their passion, dedication and desire to be successful, the boxers, trainers and coaches at Shuler’s expect only the best of themselves. Commitment runs rampant within the gym walls from the up and coming amateurs to the experienced professionals they all share the same goals. When it comes to boxing history especially the rich Philly Boxing History no one at Shuler’s comes up short either. They can tell you about the greats from Jolting Jeff Chandler to Bernard Hopkins, from Bob Montgomery to Tim Witherspoon.
Each boxer training on the day we visited wasted no time to show us the love they have for their sport and for each other within the gym. And it was for the love he had for the late James Shuler that Percy “Buster” Custus opened the James Shuler Memorial Gym in 1994.Cutus a trainer had met Shuler while he was working out at Joe Frazier’s Gym the two established a special relationship. They were friends for over 14 years, until Shuler’s life was cut short when he passed away from a fatal motorcycle accident in March 1986.
The city of Brotherly Love holds true to form in Shuler’s when we chatted with Gee Culmer, Jamaal Davis, Steve Cunningham, Marianne Marston, Jason Sia, Sharron Baker and Percy Custus himself each one in their own words described the support and encouragement they exude for each other. It was Jamaal Davis who said it best if it wasn’t for everyone in my Shuler Gym family I would not have been able to go forward with my career after the passing of my wife Patrilla to cancer last year “There is nothing else I would rather do than be in this gym”. Davis spoke about how at 4AM he can call his trainer Sharron Baker and without hesitation she will pickup the phone and listen to him. He told us how Steve Cunningham and his family was there every step of the way to help him deal with the challenging times he was facing and how Nazim Richardson (trainer of Bernard Hopkins) and Percy Custus guide him, “They are my father figures” Davis says. Davis who has dedicated his career to his wife is scheduled to fight on October 4th at the National Guard Armory in Northeast Philadelphia.
The training is fierce no session goes without extreme intensity as their trainer’s guide them through their workout the Shuler Boxer’s push each other along. Each one rooting on the other to throw a harder punch, to snap the jab, to get the extra sit up in it just does not stop. Inspiration does not fall short at Shuler’s either. Gee Culmer easily pointed to IBF Cruiserweight Champion Steve Cunningham when asked who inspires him to work hard. Culmer stated “Steve Cunningham has the blueprint of hard work locked up “He Cunningham is always in top shape before a fight, after a fight, six month’s after a fight, he is always in the same top shape”. Cunningham who works out each day with a chest protector (flack jacket) filled with 25 to 30 pounds of weights draped over his body has one of the top physics in the sport to go along with his 21-1 record. Cunningham who is waiting to hear a date for his mandatory title defense against number one challenger Tomasz Ademek, which he is anticipating will be scheduled for late October or November. Cunningham has not fought in the United States since his January 2006 knockout victory over Bryon Lloyd at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Cunningham is anticipating the fight against Ademek to take place on home soil. In the meantime it’s business as usually for Cunningham who has been in two training camps and has been sparring throughout the year to stay sharp. Cunningham is setting his sites on being the true unified champion, he wants to hold all the Cruiserweight belts and after a recent trip to the Induction weekend at the Boxing Hall of Fame, Cunningham has set another goal for himself. He was so taken by the Hall of Fame experience that it’s now a goal of his to be inducted one day. The Hall of Fame experience as Cunningham says “Motivated me so much that all my punches have extra snap on them now”.
There have been many legendary boxers to come out of Philly the list is pages upon pages long with the names of George Benton, Boogaloo Watts, Matthew Saad Muhammad, Joe Frazier and Bernard Hopkins. Well Gee Culmer and the rest of the boxers at Shuler’s know there boxing history, they can tell you stories about all of them. Through films, videos and books they have learned the history of their sport. Culmer who has achieved a 15 -1 record and has fought 10 of his fights at the Philly landmark The Legendary Blue Horizon, can tell you how Archie Moore ended Philadelphia’s own Harold Johnson’s unbeaten streak at 24 when he recorded a unanimous decision victory over Johnson on April 26, 1949 at Convention Hall in Philly. Culmer can tell you how Jeff Chandler beat Julian Solis twice the first time taking the WBA bantamweight title from Solis and the second time defending the title. It’s this type of passion Culmer has about the sport he loves. Culmer also has the love of fighting in The Legendary Blue Horizon were the who’s who of Philly Boxing have fought. Culmer says ‘It’s like a ritual fighting at The Legendary Blue Horizon” “It has a tradition of its own, so many greats have fought there” “It’s the ghost of past fighters, there spirits are still in the building”. Culmer knows so much about the sport if there was a Jeopardy show on boxing Culmer would be the Champion. However, the only championship Culmer has on his mind right now is working his way up towards the Super Middleweight Championship.
Without doubt it’s true Philly Brotherly Love that these boxers, trainers and coaches have for their sport and each other inside and outside the walls of Shuler’s Gym. They say that Madison Square Garden in New York is the Mecca of Boxing well then Philly’s James Shuler Memorial Gym has to be the Foundation of Boxing Champions.
Complete photo gallery at http://www.diamondboxing.com/pics.php