Weekly Local Biography

  Peter Shepherd

One of the highest level international amateur boxing referees and judges is Peter Shepherd, and he lives in Chiang Mai. Peter is also much more than just a man judging technically from outside the ropes, he is an ex-amateur boxer himself who fought 64 bouts, winning 59 of them. (Of the five he lost, four were to the same chap, an Olympic gold medallist, so he has really only lost to two people!)

Peter was born in London, and despite his trim figure these days, he was exceptionally well fed as a youngster. His father was the head chef at the Cumberland and Savoy Hotels!

He went to some of the best schools, so his interest in pugilism did not come from needing to defend himself from back street gangs in the rough end of town. He excelled at mathematics, and did a little boxing at school, but his love at that stage was photography.

This was such that he left school after his “O” levels to become a trainee photographer. Peter was on his way to become the next Norman Parkinson, the doyen of British photography. Unfortunately Britain had other ideas for the young man, as after looking through the lens for six months he was called up for National Service.

His next decision was the one that was to dictate his future direction, far more than he could ever have imagined. Rather than just do the minimum period, he opted to join up for four years. “This way you could choose your direction, so I went in to be a physical training instructor with the RAF. The four years eventually stretched to ten!” said Peter.

During this time in the RAF, Peter also found that he was a natural athlete. He was ranked fifth in the UK in the triple jump, played top class hockey, but boxing became his main sport. “I had good coaching and hit the top quite quickly,” said Peter. He boxed internationally and got to the semi-finals of the Amateur Boxing Association (ABA) championships, where he fought in the lightweight (up to 60 kg) category. “I’m only 62 kg now,” said Peter rather proudly!

Whilst the services did allow (and encourage) such pursuits, there was also a down side (there always is, isn’t there)! He was posted to Cyprus during the terrorist activity there, there was no gymnasium for him to train, and then his best friend was blown up. His family applied pressure for him to come home, and so after ten years he returned to civvy street.

He had no real idea of what he wanted to do, but when a sporting paper had an opening, he took that. Unfortunately the paper folded (not just in the middle but totally) in nine months!

Remembering his interest in photography he took a job as the staff photographer for an engineering company, and whilst he was there started a boxing club for the firm. Boxing was still his prime interest.

His next career move dated back to one of his mates from his teenage years, a singer by the name of Ray Davies. Yes, the same Ray Davies who was the front man for The Kinks (“Lola” and other chart toppers). Ray knew that Peter had a good voice and suggested he look at being a singer/compere. This resulted in his joining the Batley Variety Club in Yorkshire, where he stayed for the next five years!

However, after that period of time, working nights only, he knew that he had to get out. A serendipitous meeting with a chap who was opening a leisure centre resulted in Peter agreeing to run it for him. The position looked easy enough. It was a small place employing a staff of three.

That did not last long. Within three years Peter had expanded the business into a 3,000 square meter building, which included a snooker club, a children’s theme park, restaurant, bar and poker machines. He also needed more staff, and by the time he left 18 years later, the leisure centre had a staff of more than 60. He was also involved in local charities and even organized a ‘dartathon’ in the local pub.

One of the reasons he left was that he had an accident at work, fracturing his spine and his neck. For the final three years Peter described himself as hobbling. It was time to get away from the cold of the UK. He returned to Cyprus.

He found there was no boxing on the island, but found a gymnasium. There he started a boxing club, the forerunner of the six that exist there today. He trained the local boys, who are now doing well internationally, and at the same time did a judges course himself with the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA), joining a very select group, in which Peter is ranked number 8 in the world.

His judging and refereeing was then to take him all over the globe, where he judged two world championships, two Commonwealth Games and was even chosen for the Olympics. One of those events was in KL, and he came up to Thailand for a vacation, and in his words, “I fell in love with Chiang Mai.”

He had been in Cyprus for 14 years by that time, and Peter was ready for the move. That move was to Thailand and Chiang Mai.

Here he is still keeping himself fit, because like all sportsmen, they never ‘really’ retire. “There’s still one more fight left,” said Peter. I asked him whether he had ever been injured boxing, but he replied that amateur boxing required more technical ability than strength. “I’ve never been hurt in boxing, but I’ve been hospitalized twice playing hockey,” he said grinning.

So the keen amateur boxer, turned referee and judge, is definitely not ready to hang up his gloves (or his judge’s bow tie), and is also ready to become involved in local charity work in his new home - Chiang Mai.