The Dawghouse Gym is building a family of fighters

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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - There aren’t a lot of places in the Mid-Ohio Valley to learn combative sports, but there is at least one gym on the south side of Parkersburg where somebody might know a thing or two about boxing.

The Dawghouse is a two room gym with weights and a boxing ring. Since 2011 it has been run by a fighter with experience in boxing, kickboxing and mixed martial arts.

His name is Mike Sheppard. He’s a Wirt County High School Teacher, and a former world kickboxing champion.

“I won four world kickboxing titles, professional. And in boxing, I won a North American, a WBF North American Championship,” said Sheppard.

Sheppard retired from professional fighting two years ago for medical reasons, but now he’s excited to train other professionals.

“I love it, you know we got so many guys, somebody’s got something coming up all the time. I take a lot of pride in that,” said Sheppard.

But the Dawghouse doesn’t just work with the professionals. They offer no-contact, cardio and kids classes. Sheppard even has one of his high school students teaching right their next to him.

“I just coached, first I was doing mitts with the kids and stuff, and then he put me over and we’re just doing cardio and stuff like that,” said Wirt County High School Freshman Alexis Dennis.

And trainer Kenny Watkins does everything he can to help Sheppard out.

“Kenny is the heart and soul of this gym. You know, I started it, but he’s been around 3 or 4 years,” said Sheppard.

“This gym means a lot to me. Not only to give back to the public and give back to the community, but I also want to give back to Mike. Mike has a legacy that needs to be fulfilled. Everything that he’s done for the sport of combative sports, every stage that he’s stepped on and stuff, you know he’s retired now and for him to be able to have a place that he can be proud of and to give back to that community, you know. For him to be proud and for me to get to see, you know, for Mike to be happy with everything that’s coming, that’s what I’m looking for,” said Watkins.

Students say they pick up more from Sheppard and Watkins than fighting skills.

“Mike and Kenny, they don’t really just teach boxing, they teach me life skills. Like, they’re constantly giving me information on how to survive in life and if I ever need help, they’ll help me. They’re more than just coaches, they’re family, really,” said Dennis.

That family feeling is a shared sentiment.

“Big family, oh yea. It always has been. You know, you’ve got the people that really compete, the kids, the parents, the other classes. Everybody’s separate, but together. They’re interacting. It makes fans… The competitors have fans. And they’ll come in and help with the classes as well,” said Sheppard.

“A lot of people think to get this type of professional training, you know, that you have to leave and you have to go out of the area. But, you know, once you get started here, it’s more of a family than anything. You’re going to get just as much professional training here as you will anywhere else,” said Watkins.