Michael Rosenthal

Is this just the beginning for Shumenov?


The fact that Beibut Shumenov won a major light heavyweight title in his 10th professional fight is remarkable enough. The WBA titleholder might’ve claimed a second title had WBO titleholder Juergen Braehmer not pulled out of their fight in January. He has fought four world champions in 12 total fights.

And, according to his own handlers, he has accomplished all this even though he is a work in progress in terms of his skills.

In other words, they’re convinced, his upside is huge.

Shumenov (11-1, 7 knockouts) defends his title against Danny Santiago on Friday in Las Vegas on Telefutura.

“I honestly believe he’ll become a major star. He’s explosive, he’s entertaining, he’s a boxing fan’s fighter,” said Kevin Barry, who trains him in the fighter’s adopted hometown of Las Vegas. “

Shumenov has had a brief pro career but has been fighting most of his life.

He took up martial arts as a child in his hometown of Shymkent, where his father is a successful businessman,and had an extensive amateur career that included his participation in the 2004 Olympics. Barry said Shumenov had about 200 amateur fights.

Thus, the basic skills are there. That doesn’t seem to be the main reason he has found so much success so soon, though.

Watch him for one round and the most-obvious reason he is formidable will hit you in the face: The man is profoundly ferocious.

That fact combined with what Barry and advisor Don Chargin call fanatical conditioning have allowed him to overcome more-experienced opponents, including Byron Mitchell, Gabriel Campillo and Viacheslav Uzelkov in the past year and a half.

Shumenov defeated Campillo by a split – and controversial — decision in January of last year to win the title after losing a majority decision to the Spaniard in his first title shot five months earlier.

“I’ve been around some good fighters and I’ve never seen anyone as driven as Beibut,” said Barry, the Kiwi who is best remembered for being knocked out after the bell by Evander Holyfield in the 1984 Olympics. “Fanatical is the perfect word to describe him.

“You hear about students of the game. Beibut really is a student of the game. He’s always looking to improve.”

Where does the drive come from?

Barry attributes it to his intelligence: He knows what he wants and how to get it.

Shumenov comes from a family of achievers in Kazahkstan, a Central Asian country bordered by Russia and China among other countries. He and his brother are both lawyers. He speaks five languages, including some English. And, having split with promoter Dan Goossen, he has his own promotional firm: KZ Event Productions.

Where does the ferocity come from? Well, that apparently is innate.

Barry marvels at Shumenov’s ability to viciously attack opponents with abandon for extended periods of time because of his prime conditioning.

“Beitbut doesn’t throw a punch … and then pose … and then throw another punch,” said Barry, who is working his fourth fight with Shumenov. “He’s looking to take your frickin' head off. That’s what it’s all about. Boxing is entertainment and he entertains me all the time.

“I never saw (Mike) Tyson spar but you hear stories how he used to tear up sparring partners. … Beibut is respectful of his sparring partners, he takes care of them, but he is absolutely brutal on them when he sparring. I think that’s just part of his makeup.”

Shumenov obviously is happy with the people around him, Barry in the gym and the respected Hall of Famer Chargin overseeing his career.

“I have a good team of people around me and now, thanks to Don’s involvement, I’m stress free,” the fighter said.

Free to take on the future.

Barry and Chargin say that Shumenov is still learning the ropes yet is almost ready to take on any of the top light heavyweights, including Bernard Hopkins, Jean Pascal and Tavoris Cloud.

Shumenov would love to fight again in Kazakhstan, where he drew 30,000 at a stadium for his fight against Mitchell and has become so popular that Kazakhstani dignitaries are expected to attend the fight Friday in Las Vegas.

However, he and his team are eager to take on anyone anywhere after one or two more fights.

“I’ve noticed in just the few months that I’ve been with him that he is improving all the time,” Chargin said. “I believe he’s going to be a force. He’s a good puncher, a good right-hand puncher, a good body puncher. And he has tremendous, tremendous conditioning. I don’t think he’ll ever be outconditioned.

“Could he one day be on the pound-for-pound lists? I really think so. The possibilities for him are endless.”

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