|Born||May 29, 1959|
|Died||March 17, 1986|
James Shuler (May 29, 1959 – March 17, 1986) was a notable U.S. Olympic and professional boxer from Philadelphia known as "Black Gold." Shuler was killed in a tragic motocycle accident on 17 March 1986.
Childhood and family
James grew up in one of those small, cramped North Philadelphia neighborhoods of red brick houses and narrow streets that we in the inner city know so well. He earned his way out, and with it, the respect of the neighborhood - through the boxing ring.
Shuler was the 1979 and 1980 National Golden Gloves Light Middleweight Champion. He qualified at 156 pounds and was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic boxing team that perished in an air crash in Warsaw, Poland, on March 14, 1980 . Shuler was not with the team, however, as he had stayed in America due to injury . The team was en route to Warsaw, Poland for the USA vs. Poland Box-off as part of "USA vs. the World." event. Among the USA Boxing teammates who were killed in the plane crash were Lemuel Steeples from St. Louis; Calvin Anderson from Connecticut; Paul Palomino - the brother of Carlos Palomino ; George Pimentel, and Olympic Coach, Sarge Johnson. Members of the team who were also not aboard included Bobby Czyz and Alex Ramos .
Shuler began his professional boxing career as a middleweight on September 12, 1980 with a second-round knockout of Chris Rogers in Philadelphia. During his five years as a pro, he had 22-1 record with sixteen knockouts. His first loss came on March 10, 1986 to Thomas Hearns when he was knocked out in the first round.
Death of Champion
James died the same way a great many young men will die as the weather turns warmer, roaring down the streets on a motorcycle. Those of you who have never ridden a bike can't imagine the freedom, the liberation of flying through the city low to the ground, free - if only for a while - from the drabness of the inner city. James must have felt this as he climbed aboard his new Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle, purchased with $5,000 from his loser's purse, and cruised through the streets which were home to him for 26 years. During his last hours he cruised past the schools, the shops, the street- corner boys and the winos. He had been beaten, but he was still James Shuler.
On 17 March 1986 just a week from his last fight, James was heading north on 11th Street, approaching Wallace. The truck was proceeding east on Wallace after presumably halting at a stop sign. Police say James was traveling at high speed and without the proper licenses. He skidded 50 feet, not hard to do on a rocket-bike like the Ninja, laying rubber, then metal into the pavement, as the bike came out from under him and slammed into and under the massive belly of the truck. We can only pray his death was instant.
The crowd at the scene, as day turned to dusk, was shocked by the horrible violence of the crash, then doubly, triply, by the numbing news that under that truck was James Shuler. "Yo Champ," they yelled, "Yo Champ, hang in there." But it was too late.
Memory and tribute
Bob Arum, the promoter of Mr. Shuler's last fight, said that the boxer came to Mr. Arum's room a day after the Hearns fight and thanked him for promoting it. Mr. Arum, who has promoted many bouts, said pointedly that Mr. Shuler was the only fighter who had ever done that, adding, "He was a decent, decent young man." In 1995, close friend Percy Custus opened the 'James Shuler Memorial Boxing Gym' in boxer's native Philadelphia in honor of the fallen fighter. Custus met Shuler in the 1970s at the Joe Frazier Gym where they trained together and remained close friends for the rest of James’ life. (http://www.jamesshulerboxing.com)
Professional boxing record
Shuler used the money he earned from the Hearns fight to buy a motorcycle. Just one week after the fight, Shuler was killed when he crashed his motorcycle in Philadelphia . His death came six years and three days after the flight that he was originally scheduled to make in Poland.
- http://articles.philly.com/1986-03-28/sports/26085097_1_james-shuler-bumper-sanctuary%7C"Boxer's Requiem: Shuler's Corner Is Empty Now", by Sarajane Freligh, Inquirer Staff Writer, posted on 28 March 1986.
- http://articles.philly.com/1986-04-01/news/26079096_1_streets-james-shuler-bike%7C"Requiem For A Middleweight On A North Phila Street", by George Azar, April 1986.
- http://articles.philly.com/1986-03-25/news/26084136_1_untimely-death-professional-defeat-hearns-fight%7C"James Shuler, Champion", 1986.