Nick Shepard, 63, will be a corner man at Friday's mixed martial arts event. (Bryan Mitchell / Special to Detroit News)
Taylor —Nick Shepard had had enough.
His father was drunk, which happened often. He held a belt in his hand and told Shepard, then 16, he was going to beat his sister with it and then whip him after that.
His mother was already in pain from a beating she took at his father’s hands.
Shepard had tried to stop the abusive behavior before, but he was quickly sent to his room in tears after his father was done with him. He was no match as a preteen.
But on this day, Shepard had enough. It was time to stand his ground — one more time.
He told his father to step outside.
The two walked into the yard, and a few minutes later, Shepard’s father walked back into the house — with both eyes swollen shut.
That would be the day that changed Shepard’s life.
Shepard knew he could always handle himself. He wrestled for three years in high school, took up karate and boxing. And for 15 years, he bounced in Downriver biker and rock ’n’ roll bars. And his day job was as an enforcement officer for the Federal Reserve downtown.
Now, at 63, Shepard is lending his rough and tough lifestyle to a different arena — mixed martial arts. He’s a trainer, corner man and guru, and Friday at the Southgate Civic Center, he’ll help fighter Willis Black.
“He inspired me,” said boxing and MMA promoter Jackie Kallen, who calls Shepard “Mr. Miyagi.” “When I met him I said, ‘Sir, can I ask you a question? How old are you?’ He said 63 and I said how is that possible? I watched him train and I am thinking I have to go home and get on a diet, do some walking, do something.”
Everybody calls Shepard “Super Nick” at the United Martial Arts gym. And everybody wants to train with Shepard, who does not charge for his services.
Not only does Shepard train fighters, but he also gets inside the cage and is a hands-on guy who can handle himself just as well as the young kids.
“He is just amazing,” Black said. “He can hold his own against younger guys. He really can.”
His only regret is that cage fighting came too late for him to compete.
“Of course I would have loved to fight,” Shepard said. “I would definitely be fighting if I were younger. I think at this stage it would not be a good idea.”
Still, Shepard is an imposing figure — all 6 feet and 184 pounds.
“What he does is amazing,” said gym owner Michael Pedenelli, who sometimes gets in the ring with Shepard. “I get nagging injuries and my body breaks down. I am 38. So I cannot complain. He is in here every day. That is amazing.”
And what’s even more amazing is how it all started.
Ask Shepard, and he’ll tell you about that day when he was 16 years old.
“The person that I liked the least in my entire life probably made the biggest impression on me,” Shepard said. “My dad used to say I am going to grow up and be just like him. But I didn’t want to be anything like him. I was never drunk a day in my life. I did not beat up my wife or abuse a kid.
“I wanted to grow up different than him.”