After an exceptionally strong first round, Travis Hanshaw felt his legs weakening in the ring halfway through the second.
Ukrainian boxer Taras Shelestyuk took advantage, handing Hanshaw his first professional loss by unanimous decision at Veterans Coliseum in Jacksonville, Fla., on Friday night as part of ESPN’s “Friday Night Fights.”
While the Boyd County native’s match couldn’t squeeze into the two-hour aired broadcast, Hanshaw was pleased with the overall experience.
“This is going to boost my career up big-time,” said the 21-year-old Boyd County High School graduate. “They usually try to get people from small towns so the other fighter has an easy win.”
It was anything but easy for Shelestyuk, a 2012 Olympics bronze medalist. In fact, the southpaw said this, through an interpreter, to Hanshaw afterward: “That was the hardest fight I’ve ever had.”
Shelestyuk, 27, improved to 4-0 while Hanshaw’s record went to 7-1.
During the first weight check on Wednesday, the scales showed Hanshaw was 9 1/2 pounds too heavy.
“My scale that I use had me going fine,” Hanshaw said. “So I don’t know what went on there. I’ve never had a weight problem.”
Hanshaw succumbed to a strict diet of ice cubes and sweated it out in a sauna for the next two-plus days before weighing in 12 pounds lighter on Friday. He weighed in at 150.8 pounds, with Shelestyuk at 151.4.
The two nearly fought a few hours early, as things got heated during the official weigh-in.
“He kept smirking at me ...” Hanshaw said. “... I put my head on his forehead and said, ‘You’re going to get it bad.’”
Hanshaw said there was mutual respect shown following the fight. Hanshaw even requested a rematch, to which Shelestyuk responded with a simple “no.”
The scorecard read 42-39, said Hanshaw. It was his first loss since his amateur days, probably around the age of 12 or 13, he said.
“I’ve faced a lot of people in my life, and he was a great left-hander,” Hanshaw said. “All credit to him on that, he came to fight.”
When asked about the short notice of the light middleweight bout — he was contacted just a week and a half prior — and the challenge of dropping weight rapidly as being factors, he said they might have been. However, he didn’t want to use those as excuses.
“The first round, I jabbed him, stuck to the game plan,” Hanshaw said. “Everything was going smooth. The second round, it was the same thing. Then I felt my body go.
“I still landed some good punches. People were impressed with me.”
Those tuned in to ESPN2 back home in Boyd County came away disappointed and disgusted because of no air time.
A slew of comments from the Ashland area bombarded the Friday Night Fights Facebook page, and Hanshaw received a great deal of encouraging feedback from his fans.
Hanshaw said his match would have been seen had the co-main event resulted in a knockout.
The rare loss (Hanshaw was 123-6 as an amateur) plunged the right-hander into short-lived depression. He credited his hometown for quickly helping him return to optimistic form.
“That’s why I love where I’m from,” he said. “My whole dream was to be an undefeated champion, that’s why I was down. But they picked me right back up.”
Hanshaw is hoping for a high-profile fight soon, tossing around the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville as a possible site.
To keep up with Hanshaw and his fight information, check out his Facebook page. He also invites people to follow him on Twitter (@Rattlesnake606).
AARON SNYDER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2664.