By Jake Donovan
Rare is the occasion when a fighter will admit to having his eye on a fight beyond the challenge in front of him. However, Bernard Hopkins and Beibut Shumenov are both realists and are well aware that there exists plenty of chatter regarding the extra layers attached to their April 19 light heavyweight title unification bout in Washington D.C.
The fight was already in the works from the moment Shumenov (14-1, 9KO) signed with Golden Boy Promotions late last year. There were concerns regarding what awaited the winner of the upcoming Showtime-televised main event, given that the rest of the best light heavyweights in the world were fighting on HBO.
That dynamic dramatically shifted when Stevenson decided in late March to take his business down the block. The lineal light heavyweight king will defend his crown versus Andrzej Fonfara on May 24, with Showtime to televise the bout after months of speculation that HBO had the fight locked up. The fight was made with the intention of Stevenson next facing Sergey Kovalev, who last weekend crushed overmatched Cedric Agnew on HBO.
Instead, Stevenson – disinterested in the deal presented to him – enlisted the services of Al Haymon, whose fighters appear largely on Showtime these days. The Haitian-born Canadian-based southpaw followed suit, and – providing he beats Fonfara – is now being offered as the grand prize to the Hopkins-Shumenov winner.
While focus remains squarely on the fight in front of them, both fighters are well aware of what’s at stake beyond adding an additional belt to their trophy case on April 19.
“It’s bad for both of us to think beyond April 19 on Showtime,” admits Hopkins (54-6-2, 32KO), but with a caveat. “But the Stevenson fight is going to be mentioned. It’s out there. It’s been out there since Stevenson came on board to eventually unify titles.”
Unifying all of the titles is precisely why Shumenov chose to sign with Golden Boy after years of serving as his own promoter. It remains his goal and also his motivation to look that much better in his next fight, thus truly living in the moment.
“I told my manager Mr. Al Haymon and Richard Schaefer that I want to fight the best,” Shumenov insists, with the proof coming in the amount of title fights he’s already enjoyed through just 15 total pro fights. “My goal is to unify all of the championship belts. That is my goal to unify all of the titles.
“I’m not thinking ahead, I’m just concentrating on Bernard Hopkins. What waits ahead, it motivates me more. It makes me train harder.”
With more than 25 years in the pro ranks, Hopkins hardly needs to look beyond the very basics of life to keep himself motivated in the ring. At 49 years of age, the former lineal middleweight and light heavyweight king and current light heavyweight titleholder can easily envision history repeating itself – and vividly recalls how he arrived at that point all those years ago.
“I’ve been here before, been there, done that,” Hopkins reminds all, having fully unified the middleweight division in 2001. “I have a track record of having to prove, if I have the itch to collect all of the belts in the division, to go get them.
“ On April 19, I’m looking forward to taking that step towards making history.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox