Anson Wainwright

Q&A: Beibut Shumenov returns on Saturday



It has been a tough 18 months for Beibut Shumenov. The WBA titleholder has been unable to get the bouts he’s long craved and has had to sit idle on the sidelines watching his fellow light heavyweights continue their quests without him.

“The business outside the ring is very stressful and it takes its toll,” Shumenov told “We tried to make unifications against then-WBO champion [Nathan] Cleverly and then-WBC champion [Chad] Dawson but they had no interest in unifying against me and those fights fell through.”

It’s nothing new to Shumenov, who early on in life had to survive being poisoned while doctors predicted it would be too much for a little baby to overcome. However, Shumenov beat those odds and battled through a sickly childhood before using the same courage to succeed in amateur boxing. He ultimately appeared at the 2004 Olympics, only to break a hand in his first fight and lose in his next contest.

As a pro Shumenov won the WBA title in his tenth fight, which is a light heavyweight record for fewest needed to win major world title. Since then he’s made four successful defenses.

The now-30-year-old Las Vegas-based Kazakhstani will end his ring hiatus when he meets unbeaten Slovakian Tamas Kovacs on Dec. 14 in San Antonio. The star-studded Showtime card is headlined by Adrien Broner against Marcos Maidana, and also features Keith Thurman vs. Jesus Soto Karass and Leo Santa Cruz vs. Cesar Seda.


Anson Wainwright – On Saturday you face Tamas Kovacs; What are your thoughts on that fight and on Kovacs himself?

Beibut Shumenov – I am very excited to get back in the ring and fight on Showtime. I don’t know too much about Kovacs except that he likes to come forward and throw a lot of punches. I am sure that his style and mine will make an exciting fight.

AW – It’s been 18 months since we last saw you fight – how come you’ve been out of action for so long?

BS – My goal has always been to unify the title. We tried to make unifications against then-WBO champion [Nathan] Cleverly and then-WBC champion [Chad] Dawson but they had no interest in unifying against me and those fights fell through. But I’m not looking back now. I am working with my new team and Golden Boy and ready for Dec. 14 and whatever comes next.

altAW – What have you done with your time since you last fought?

BS – As I mentioned, we have tried unsuccessfully for one reason or another to make the big fights, but I have always been in the gym.

AW – You have your own promotional company but have signed with Golden Boy Promotions now?

BS – The business outside the ring is very stressful and it takes its toll having to self-promote, self-manage, self-train, self-payroll, etc. I love to train and I love boxing but I almost lost my desire because of the business outside the ring. But now I have my new team, including Golden Boy, and I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I am focused and prepared for my Showtime debut. I am grateful that Golden Boy and Richard Schaefer believe in me and my talents.

AW – What are your thoughts about fighting on such a big show in San Antonio?
BS – I am honored to be a part of this great show with four world title fights at the Alamodome on Showtime. It is a great opportunity for me to be watched by millions of boxing fans on Showtime and hopefully 20,000-plus at the Alamodome. I am very thankful to Golden Boy and Showtime.

AW – You’re from Shymkent, Kazakhstan – can you tell us about the early years of your life?

BS – Well, I almost died as an infant. My aunts were supposed to be watching me, as my parents were working, and they gave me poisonous milk but they hadn’t told anyone. They were scared to tell my parents and were hoping I would heal on my own. When my father came home to visit me after a couple weeks, he saw that I was all blue and that I had shrunk. My parents rushed me to the hospital and doctors told them that it (poison) had seeped into my blood stream. Doctors said the poison had now occupied my whole body and they couldn’t even find a vein for an IV. They had to go through my head to try to purge the poison. They only gave me a few days to live. While the doctors tried desperately to purge the toxins from my bloodstream, my parents prayed for a miracle, and that miracle happened to me. I did survive but I had a very weak immune system and low tolerance for anything physical during my young childhood. I was in the hospital sick all the time. My lungs were always giving out and I had no energy or stamina to play anything. I know I would have been a lot bigger today if that hadn’t happened; my younger brother, Chingis, is 6 feet 5 inches and 230 pounds.

AW – Wow, that is incredible, how did you manage to turn that situation around to become an athlete?

BS – Ever since I was a little boy, I wanted to be strong. When I was little, I was weak and tired all the time. At about 6 years old, I started trying Taekwondo, then karate, then wrestling, then kickboxing, then Muay Thai, and judo. Then, after watching Mike Tyson on television when I was 13 years old, I started boxing. Being smaller and weak made me try harder to be strong.

altAW – Unlike many boxers you come from an affluent background? 

BS – Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union until 1991. My father was an accountant for the government and my mother was a school teacher. They worked extremely long hours. Kazakhstan gained its freedom in 1991 but that’s all we received. We didn’t have enough money for bread back in those early days. Before our independence, everyone was the same; afterwards, we had to adjust. There were some very bad days. My father is a great man who is one of 10 kids. He loves his brothers and sisters but, on days that our parents sent us to their homes for food or money, they closed their doors on us. However, my parents, even today, now support our relatives. We went through a few failed businesses in the beginning but everyone went through those hard days. We had limited food. You went from a standard salary to trying to make it on your own. My parents applied their non-stop, tireless work ethic into their success today. I am so blessed to have a mother and father like I do who I love unconditionally.

AW – You were a very good amateur boxer and you represented your country at the 2004 Olympics; could you tell us about that experience, as well as what other accolades you won in the amateur’s? Also what was your final record?

BS – My goal was to win a gold medal. Everyone was confident. I even had a meeting with the president of Kazakhstan. There was a lot of pressure on me. In the first round, I defeated Aleksy Kuziemski but I broke my right hand during the fight. In the second round, I essentially fought one-handed and lost that fight. Who knows what would have happened if I didn’t break my hand but I did. It was really devastating to me as I felt I let my parents and my country down. I had over 200 amateur fights with around 15 losses and I was Afro-Asian Games silver medalist and Asian Championship gold medalist.
AW – When you look at the light heavyweight division what are your thoughts on it and the other current champions?

BS – My goal still is to unify the light heavyweight division. If Bernard (Hopkins) would like to fight, it would be an honor to fight him. I want the big fights.
AW – Tell us about your life away from boxing.

BS – I am a lawyer and also own my boxing promotional company (KZ Event Productions) that is licensed in Nevada and Kazakhstan. I guess you could say my hobby is boxing and all forms of mixed martial arts including Greco-Roman wrestling.
AW – In closing, do you have a message for Kovacs and the light heavyweight division?

BS – I am sure Kovacs is very well prepared and I am ready for everything that he brings. 

Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at and you can follow him at


Around the web