Beibut Shumenov has just about everything a world champion boxer can want.
He has a magnificent 9,654-square-foot home at The Lakes. He has plenty of money. He even has a law degree.
Yes, it’s seemingly all there for the World Boxing Association light heavyweight titleholder. But there’s one thing Shumenov’s resume is lacking — a quality win over a big-time opponent and the public recognition that comes from such a win.
The 30-year-old Las Vegas resident by way of Kazakhstan gets the ultimate test when he faces future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins, the International Boxing Federation champion, tonight in Washington, D.C., on a Showtime-televised card. Beat Hopkins and nobody will question Shumenov’s abilities, because even though Hopkins is 49 years old, he still is one of boxing’s top performers.
“I have been trying to fight the best for several years, and now I get to fight Bernard Hopkins. This is the moment I have been waiting for my entire life,” said Shumenov, a 2-1 betting underdog. “I have always looked up to him. He is a great champion, and he has accomplished much in boxing. But I believe it is my time.”
Shumenov might be one of boxing’s most obscure champions. His is not a household name among casual fight fans. He’s not a pay-per-view star. He doesn’t even have a trainer. He prepares in his own way, using Dewey Cooper and Big Jeff Grmoja to assist in his daily workouts.
It’s not that Shumenov doesn’t trust anyone to work with him — he used to have accomplished trainer Kevin Barry working his corner. He’s just more comfortable being his own boss.
“I have a scientific way to prepare for my fights,” Shumenov said. “I do things that are a little different. I do different exercises and do different drills.”
Shumenov wouldn’t discuss his different drills. He prefers to keep his game plan close to the vest. When reporters questioned him on how he would fight Hopkins, he politely declined to answer.
Shumenov tried to get big fights on his own. He wanted to fight Nathan Cleverly and Chad Dawson. But they weren’t interested, and that’s why he didn’t fight for 18 months before returning to the ring Dec. 14 and stopping Tamas Kovacs in the third round to retain his WBA belt.
“I got stuck and couldn’t do anything,” Shumenov said.
From an experience standpoint, Shumenov’s 14-1 record with nine knockouts pales in comparison to Hopkins’ 54-6-2 mark that includes 32 KOs. But Shumenov says he won’t be intimidated tonight at the D.C. Armory when he sees Hopkins across the ring scowling at him before the first bell.
“I am a lot better since that fight in December,” he said. “I haven’t reached my limit yet. I have studied (Hopkins), and I know how to fight him.”
Shumenov’s life story is fascinating. He almost died after inadvertently being given poisoned milk when he was 9 months old.
As a child, he discovered martial arts watching Bruce Lee movies and eventually found boxing. He became a highly decorated amateur and fought in the 2004 Olympics, losing in the second round.
He also studied law in Kazakhstan and is licensed to practice in that country.
Shumenov turned pro in 2007 and moved to Las Vegas. In 2010, he won a 12-round split decision against Gabriel Campillo at the Hard Rock Hotel to become the WBA champion. It took him just 10 fights to become a world champion, and the victory also avenged a loss to Campillo in 2009 in Kazakhstan.
His goal is not only to keep his belt and add Hopkins’ title, but also to get a crack at Adonis Stevenson’s World Boxing Council title and Cleverly’s World Boxing Organization belt.
“My goal is to have all the titles,” Shumenov said. “I have been waiting for several years for this opportunity. I have been very patient. And now I am ready.”
Shumenov weighed in Friday at 174.4 pounds, with Hopkins at 172.4.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.