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.
Bob Arum, the promoter of Shuler's last fight, said that the boxer came to Arum's room a day after the Hearns fight and thanked him for promoting it. Arum, who had promoted many bouts, said that 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.