By Manya Awasthy
“I think if anybody wanted to start kickboxing, the best thing they could do is just go and try it. You can be a kickboxer and not fight, but you can just learn technique, fitness, and self-defence. I think kickboxing has something for everyone,” says Whitney Sheppard, a K-1 World Champion.
Whitney began her journey after arriving in Galway from Bath at a young age of 14 at Pete Foley’s Black Dragon Kickboxing Gym, after seeing a poster in a shop and soon made a name for herself in the sport. “I literally went the week after,” she recalls.
Whitney has shown great success over the years in a male-dominated sport and has been an inspiration to many, especially women.
According to Cian McCormack, a K-1 World Champion at the Black Dragon Gym, “It’s great to see how far she’s come and how much she’s achieved. When I was in the gym, she came back after having a baby and she went and won World Titles and European Titles.
“And now she’s teaching Muay Thai, so it goes without saying that she is a clear inspiration to all women no matter what the sport, but especially Kickboxing and Muay Thai,” says Cian.
She has had over 50 fights with great opportunities fighting in England, Ireland, Wales, France, Italy, Portugal, Germany, and Thailand. “The title that I won is a K-1 title,” says the World Champion.
Whitney recently had her comeback fight on 27 November 2022 after four and a half years, and returned to the ring with an impressive victory, winning all three rounds unanimously. “I have no plans to retire anytime soon,” says the 35-year-old Kickboxer.
Sponsored by Siam Kitchen, she fought against Diane Xerri, the Maltese champion from Team Noel – Kickboxing Malta at the Ardilaun Hotel, Galway.
After fighting various styles, such as kickboxing, low kick, K-1, and Muay Thai, she took some well-deserved time out of fighting to have her three daughters. “Being a mom is a full-time job, it has been since I was 19. Kickboxing is my passion and I’m lucky to have had it all these years along with the good team at Black Dragon Gym.”
Kickboxing is more like a family sport for the Sheppards and Whitney’s brother. “It has helped a lot that my brother, Paul Huish (former World Champion) husband, Peter Sheppard (former World Champion) and my daughter, Sofia Huish have all fought and trained alongside me,” says Whitney
In addition to her successful fighting career, Whitney is also a professional fitness trainer at the Kingfisher Club at the University of Galway in Muay Thai. “It’s so lovely training with Whitney and it’s really nice to train with a female coach because that’s not something you see every day.
“It’s really empowering as a smaller girl to see someone like that coach us. We’ve seen her fight, she’s really good,” says Daryl Invernizzi, a student training with Whitney at the Kingfisher Club.
Whitney believes discipline is the most important aspect of being a fighter. “You can’t always eat what you want, sometimes you’ve got to train when you’re tired and don’t feel like it, but the reward is so much more than the sacrifice. Being in the ring can become addictive.”