By Keith Idec
Both times Beibut Shumenov fought a champion in his opponent’s prime, Shumenov didn’t distinguish himself as the class of the light heavyweight division.
The once-beaten WBA champion from Kazakhstan insisted Thursday that he’ll begin changing people’s opinions of him Saturday night. The 30-year-old Shumenov (14-1, 9 KOs) is about a 2-1 underdog approaching his light heavyweight unification fight against Bernard Hopkins, yet feels as though he has been underestimated.
“You’re mistaken if you think I’m going into this as if I’m fighting a 50-year-old man,” Shumenov told Hopkins during the final news conference for their 12-round fight at Washington’s D.C. Armory. “On Saturday night, we are going to see who is taking whose belts.”
Shumenov topped Spain’s Gabriel Campillo (22-6-1, 9 KOs, 1 NC) by split decision in their January 2010 rematch to win the WBA light heavyweight title in Las Vegas. Campillo overcame Shumenov by majority decision in their first fight five months earlier. Their first fight was contested in Shumenov’s native Shymkent, Kazakhstan.
Shumenov made five defenses of the WBA light heavyweight title thereafter, but not against anyone as experienced or skilled as the 49-year-old Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 KOs, 2 NC). The 2004 Olympian has been able to be selective about boxing because he comes from a wealthy family that owns several lucrative businesses in Kazakhstan.
“It’s not for me about money,” Shumenov said. “I’m fighting for the honor and the glory to be acknowledged as a great fighter. I’m not thinking about future fights. I prepared for this fight like it’s my last. I’m a man of my word, so you’re going to see a great fight Saturday night. … I am ready to show the world what I’m capable of. I will show the world that I am the best light heavyweight champion.”
The Hopkins-Shumenov showdown will headline Showtime’s tripleheader, scheduled to start at 9:30 p.m. ET Saturday night. The telecast will include two additional 12-round title fights. The show will open with Brooklyn’s Peter Quillin (30-0, 22 KOs) defending the WBO middleweight title against Czech Republic’s Lukas Konecny (50-4, 23 KOs). An IBF welterweight championship clash between Brooklyn’s Paulie Malignaggi (33-5, 7 KOs) and title-holder Shawn Porter (23-0-1, 14 KOs), of Akron, Ohio, will follow the Quillin-Konecny encounter.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter Idecboxing