Surely not many teachers in the UAE, or anywhere for that matter, go by the nickname “Showtime”.
But Kim “Showtime” Shannon is not your average teacher.
“It’s usually ‘Mashallah’ or ‘Oh my gosh’,” Shannon says when asked of the class reaction when they discover their tutor’s other vocation: professional boxing.
“I’m actually teaching my kids about inspirational female leaders in the UAE. And they need more female role models in sports, so I get to speak about the boxing, get to inspire them about sports.
“If they see me doing it and achieving it, that while I’m a teacher, I can be a pro boxer and live my dreams and still fulfil my dreams, it’s amazing.”
And that’s the two sides of Ms Shannon. By day a physical education teacher at an all-girls school in Al Ain, and now pro boxer all around that, too.
The Englishwoman, a talented amateur from Birmingham, had competed with distinction for her country and boxed for Team GB, but only recently took the leap into the senior ranks. An initial opportunity arose three years ago, with the same management company that looks after world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, but the move to Dubai delayed those plans.
Ultimately, Shannon joined Real Boxing Only gym, the impressive Al Quoz operation run by Michelle Kuehn, and the decision was made. Finally, she is a pro boxer - she coaches at the gym also - and what’s more, one half of an all-female fighter-manager duo seeking a run to the top of the game.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to think I could potentially be a world champion in boxing, something that I’ve loved since I was a kid,” Shannon says. “I feel ready, that now everything’s aligned and it’s the right time to do it.
“Even better than before. And obviously these guys have been so supportive - Michelle and my coaches are amazing - and wanted me to fulfil that dream as well. It’s a gym thing; a team all the way through. I believe, with a lot of hard work, I can be really successful.”
For Kuehn, the response to Shannon’s request to become her manager – she has since gotten her licence – was immediate.
“Instant yes,” Kuehn says. “It was the only thing I thought when she asked me. No second-guessing. I have invested a lot in boxers here, and have a huge passion for, and always want to help, professional boxers.
“I didn’t get to box as a career when I would’ve loved to, so being asked to take this journey with Kim, watching her dream come true and being a part of what would’ve been mine if I’d grown up boxing, it was meant to be.”
Kuehn, who moved to the Gulf in the mid-1990s and set up Real Boxing Only in 2018, may be new to the fighter-management game, but she already sounds the part.
“Boxers need a good manager, they need someone to be there, to look out for them. Because they have a full-time job, which is training, getting in there and doing the hard work,” she says. “So you need someone who protects you from all the others trying to chase the talent.
“There’s going to be people who are always chasing the winners, but they’re not there for you when you lose, or in training, or sweating on the floor. You need a manager who’s there every step of the way. And I’m more than happy to do that for her.
“Also, female boxing isn’t one that people promote enough. I consider now when everyone says they have a female fighting it’s almost like a token. They do it for bragging rights. I’m not like that. I believe in equality; that a good boxer is a good boxer no matter the gender.
“And promoted well, you can sell as many tickets and fill as many arenas as long as they’re given the same amount of attention as the male fighters. So that’s what I want to focus on: giving Kim the shot she deserves, and every female boxer deserves.”
Kuehn has already secured Shannon a nutrition sponsor, and has been busy speaking to promoters and matchmakers about securing her a first fight. She is confident Shannon could compete twice before the year is out, especially given the thriving boxing scene locally at present. From there, build steadily in the UAE and then look beyond for bouts.
Kuehn reckons it’ll take around 10 wins to transition to the UK market. Do that, improve Shannon's ranking and start approaching title contenders.
“There’s less competition in female boxing, so you can move fast," Kuehn says. "We’re looking at two-three years of a lot of fights to get her there as quickly as possible. Third year title shots.”
Presumably, it helps speaking from first-hand knowledge when pitching her client.
“She gave me the biggest black eye of my life,” Kuehn says, triumphantly. “She sparred me for one of my fights in 2019 and practically made my head spin off - it was such a perfect shot. I had the biggest black eye for three weeks and wore it with pride.
“So I know she can pack a punch. She’s a very aggressive fighter, very exciting, and technically you won’t see any female fight like this, because she’s Team GB, she comes from really good boxing pedigree.
“Her hands are tight, chin’s down, moves forward, and like I said, she packs a punch. You’ll see knockouts, or knockdowns. Watch this space.
“Nothing’s going to stand in her way. We’ll go for [recent WBA bantamweight champion] Shannon Courtenay. Let’s do this.”
Shannon evidently concurs. At 34, she is relatively late to the pro ranks, but is convinced in both her ability and the team behind her.
"I’m not as young as I used to be, I completely respect that," she says. "But I feel fitter, stronger, more mature in the game. I want to go all the way.
“I’m looking at world titles in the future. But step by step. These girls in my weight class are amazing, very skilful, aggressive, so I’m not going into it naively.
“I’ve a lot of hard work with my team here going forward. But everyone’s dream is getting that world title.”
Watching Shannon hits the pads with the precision and potency that Kuehn describes, and it contrasts completely with the softly spoken PE teacher who next morning will be off once more to Al Ain in a bid to inspire her class.
“I like entertaining, hence the name 'Showtime'," she says. "I like putting on a show. It’s completely different to my character. That’s why I love boxing: I can get into the ring and… fight.
“My time to shine. It takes a lot just to box; that’s the easy part, going into the ring. Of course, you’ve got nerves and anxiety, but the hard bit’s the training side so that when you get in the ring you can just enjoy the fight. I love it.”