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Saturday, October 29, 2022

Back from the Brink: Interview with Shawn Sarembock

Shawn Sarembock, now 8-0 with 8 KOs, found himself on a potentially disastrous path as a teenager. "I was rebellious, a trouble maker," he told The Jewish Boxing Blog in a phone interview. His teen years were filled with "drugs, drinking, and girls."

At the age of 19, Shawn had an epiphany while staying in a house filled with drug addicts. "What am I doing?" he said to himself. "I called my dad to pick me up, and we started training again the next day." Shawn immediately stopped using drugs.

Born on January 11, 1991 in California to South African parents, Shawn spent two years living with his mother in Tel Aviv, Israel after his parents divorced. He then moved back to the United States to live with his dad, Neil. A champion kickboxer whose dreams were derailed after suffering a freak injury in sparring, Neil transitioned to training boxers and studied under the tutelage of Hall of Famers Jesse Reid and Jackie McCoy at the Westminster Boxing Club in California.

When Shawn was four years old, Neil began teaching his son the sweet science with hand pads. The training continued until Shawn's life spiraled out of control. When he began training again as a 19 year old, "Boxing was like riding a bike," Shawn remembers. "It all came back to me." But it wasn't all easy.

Shawn started living in his father's gym in a Mexican section of Phoenix, Arizona. He slept on a mattress on the floor in the gym's office. He showered at a local gym and washed his clothes in a neighborhood laundromat where Spanish was the primary spoken language. "It's a cliché about boxers: without boxing we'd be either dead or in jail. But for me, it's true," Shawn explains.

He spent two years focusing on the fundamentals with his dad. "It took time to get my coordination back," he admits. He had his first amateur fight in 2012. Only eleven more would follow.

"I have a patient style. I like to take time to study my opponents. I felt very rushed in the amateurs," Shawn reveals. Amateur matches are three rounds and the scoring system rewards activity, not the best situation for a deliberate boxer-puncher.

Turning pro in 2019, Shawn has shown tremendous poise in the ring as a prizefighter. When opponents such as Adrian Zendejas, who Shawn fought last year, come rushing in throwing bombs, Sarembock exudes calm under pressure. "I have to be prepared for anything," Shawn says. "In training, I'm conscious of the fundamentals- my hand-placement, my footwork- until it becomes second nature. So when the lights come on, I'm ready for anything."

Shadowboxing contributes immensely to Shawn's preparation for a fight. He envisions his opponent while working on his technique. He notes the old trainer's maxim, "A trainer can tell how good a guy can be after watching him shadowbox for five seconds." It's his favorite way to prepare for a fight and believes it's the most helpful.

Shawn's next fight is tentatively scheduled for December 16 in Tijuana, Mexico. As with his eight other pro bouts, Shawn will likely go into this one without seeing film on his opponent. "When the first bell goes, I try to figure them out. I take it as it comes. I feint to see their reaction, and I'm making mental notes."

Because he has faced hardships and nearly lost it all, nothing in the ring can bother him. Undefeated, Shawn Sarembock is ready for anything.

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