If not for a hand injury suffered in the opening round of the 2004 Olympic Games in Greece, reigning WBA and IBA Light Heavyweight Champion Beibut Shumenov certainly would be much better known today by North American boxing fans, especially if he advanced to the medal rounds and fought eventual gold-medal winner Andre Ward.
Shumenov (9-1, 6 KOs), who represented his native Kazakhstan at the Olympics, won his opening bout against Poland’s Aleksy Kuziemsky (37-22), who is 19-1 as a pro, before being hampered by his damaged hand and consequently eliminated in the round of 16 by Turkey’s Ihsan Yildorim Tarham (27-19).
In a relatively short time, though, Shumenov has ascended to the top of the light heavyweight division as a pro, using an accelerated approach by fighting and defeating three world champions Montell Griffin, Byron Mitchell and Gabriel Campillo) and another world title challenger (Epifanio Mendoza) in his first 10 fights. Now fighting out of Las Vegas, Beibut still remains a mysterious prize fighter in the country he now lives and trains in.
“It doesn’t bother me at all because I am a very private person,” Shumenov explained as he prepared for his first WBA title defense this week on ESPN Friday Night Fights against mandatory challenger Vyacheslav Uzelkov (22-0, 13 KOs).
“Boxing is the No. 1 sport in Kazakhstan and I love it. I’m not in boxing for the fame and glory; it’s the one-on-one competition and training that I really enjoy. I moved to Las Vegas for career reasons. I have a great trainer here, Kevin Barry, and much better sparring partners than I would have had back home.
“I do want to be a superstar in boxing and understand that will require a lot. Goossen Tutor is a star-maker, which is one of the key reasons I signed with them. Just look what they’ve done for Andre Ward and Paul Williams.”
Kazakhstan, indeed, is a hot bed for boxing. Last January, when he captured the WBA crown, Shumenov joined featherweight Aratoly Alexandrov, heavyweight, Oleg “Big O’ Maskaev and cruiserweight Vassily “The Tiger” Jirov as the only Kazakh-born professional world boxing champions. Fellow countrymen, welterweight Vitaliy Demyanenko and middleweight Gennady Golovkin, are top contemporary contenders.
Outside of the ring, Shumenov has a law degree, speaks four languages (Russian, Kazakh, English and Uzbek), and along with his brother, Chingis, owns a full-service boxing promotional company based in Las Vegas, KZ Event Productions.
Beibut is already receiving dividends for recently signing a promotional contract with Goossen Tutor Promotions. “My brother, Chingis, and the KZ Event Productions staff do a wonderful job,” Beibut noted. “But I’m a hands-on type who eventually found out that, as a world champion and promoter with all the work that goes into it, especially when I'm in training for a fight, everything had become very difficult for me to handle. I needed to concentrate on training, which I've now been able to do, letting Dan (Goossen) and his great team at Goossen Tutor handle business outside the ring.
'KZ Event Productions will still be promoting shows and my brother and I are still actively involved with our KZ fighters and signing new talent. Dan (Goossen) is one of the leading promoters in boxing today and I’m looking forward to even bigger and better things working with Goossen Tutor. They get a lot of television dates, feature a strong stable of boxers, and always seem to maximize opportunities for their boxers. That is all I can ask for…I will do the rest.”
Two unbeaten KZ Event stable-mates from Uzbekistan, WBZ Asian Boxing Council and Interim PABA light heavyweight champion Gayrat Ahmedov, ranked No. 9 by the WBA, and junior welter Ravshan Hudaynazarov (12-0, 10 KOs), are also fighting on the Shumenov-Uzelkov undercard this Friday night at Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore, California.
Tickets for Friday night’s exciting event are priced at $20, $50, $60 and $250 and can be purchased by calling the Tachi Palace box office at 559-924-7751 or visiting www.tickets.com.