How Shakeel Phinn went from Cavaliers football MVP to a pro boxing champ

Shakeel Phinn says that his transition from College football to pro boxing started with an ego check.

Phinn (who studied Sport Marketing and Management at Champlain) played running back for the Champlain Cavaliers and was named team offensive MVP for the 2010–11 season.

But when he picked up boxing to stay fit in the offseason, he realized he was not in as good shape as he’d thought.

“There’s these old people running laps around you,” he joked.

His first attempt at sparring was no better: “I was sparring with a guy who 150 pounds. I was like 210 at the time. I didn’t know that this guy was the best guy in the gym. But I learned quickly that it doesn’t matter what size you are.”

Phinn said he wasn’t discouraged by getting trounced early on.

“I ended up falling in love with it. I committed myself to it,” he said.

He took part in his first amateur fight after six months of training at the age of 21. Within a year, Phinn won the Quebec provincial championship.

“Starting in boxing, I didn’t think I was going to end up turning pro,” said Phinn. But he resolved to give it “everything” and it paid off.

Phinn made his professional debut in 2015 and has held the WBC–NABF and IBF North American super middleweight titles since 2019.

During the pandemic, Phinn’s boxing career came to an abrupt halt. In order to stay active and keep his spirits up, he started hosting fitness classes on Instagram Live.

“I need to be around people, that’s really my thing. I really thrive being around people,” he said.

Phinn works as the Boxing Program Director at Blackout Fitness in Griffintown and also co-owns the Donnybrook Boxing Gym in LaSalle with his coach and another partner.

After his son was born in January 2022, Phinn decided he wanted to get back into the pro circuit as restrictions loosened.

“I didn’t just want to stop like that. I was back in the gym training two, three times a day,” he said.

After almost three years on hiatus, Phinn had his first comeback fight in May 2022 which he won.

He hopes to get back to where he was before COVID-19, when he was ranked among the best in the world.

Never give up and keep thriving. Whatever path you choose, it’s going to take work,” he said.

Phinn is scheduled to compete at the CAA Centre in Brampton on Saturday, Nov. 12.