By Jake Donovan
Beibut Shumenov claimed a 12-round decision over BJ Flores in their NBC Sports Network-televised main event Saturday evening at Palms Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
Scores were 116-112 across the board in favor of Shumenov, albeit in a decision that received mixed reaction from the crowd on hand.
While the bout never threatened to emerge as a Fight of the Year contender, neither fighter seemed to enjoy the lead for very long. Flores opened to a strong start, but Shumenov—a former light heavyweight titlist—eventually managed to offset his opponent's power advantage with constant lateral movement.
Shumenov threatened to pull away down the stretch, but Flores—a former amateur standout who turned pro in Las Vegas more than 12 years ago—closed strong and believed it was enough to claim victory and the interim cruiserweight title at stake.
Naturally, Flores disagreed vehemently with the final call.
"I put a lot of effort into the fight tonight," Flores (32-1, 20KOs) told NBCSN's Kenny Rice after the fight. "He ran the entire fight. It's tough to win a fight when you're going backwards the entire night."
The claim is a bit of an exaggeration, although Flores was clearly the aggressor whenever the two traded punches. The issue, however, was that Shumenov boxed more than Flores slugged, which was ultimately reflected on the final scorecards.
"I knew he was a strong fighter. I scored more points," commented Shumenov (16-2, 10KOs). "He was lunging, he was going for knockout."
Shumenov claims his second win since being humbled by Bernard Hopkins in their light heavyweight unification bout last April. The Kazakh southpaw now becomes the mandatory challenger for reigning cruiserweight titlist Denis Lebedev.
In the final NBC Sports Network-televised bout of the undercard, Isiah Thomas claimed a 10-round win over Jordan Shimmell in a matchup of unbeaten cruiserweights.
Scores were surprisingly wide at 99-91, 98-92 and 97-93 in favor of Thomas, who was the busier fighter although never to the point of dominating the way the final cards suggested.
"I'm proud of my performance, but it was a close fight," Thomas (15-0, 6KOs) admitted afterward. "I knew he was a great fighter. He came with his A-game. It was a close fight."
Thomas owns a previous win over Shimmell (19-1, 14KOs) in 2004, when both were amateurs in their native Michigan.
Featherweight contender Claudio Marrero produced the latest entry for 2015 Knockout of the Year, flattening former 122 lb. titlist Rico Ramos inside of three rounds.
A looping left hand - set up by a pawing jab - put Ramos down and out in their featherweight bout. No count was issued as the bout was immediately halted upon impact.
The official time was 0:20 of round three.
Marrero (19-1, 14KOs) has now won five straight since the lone loss of his career—a 12-round decision defeat to Jesus Cuellar in their Aug. '13 vacant featherweight title fight.
Unbeaten cruiserweight Andrew Tabiti was forced to go the distance for the first time in his career, but still dominated Roberto Santos over eight rounds.
Scores were 80-72 across the board in the opening bout of the NBC Sports Network telecast, as part of Al Haymon's
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Prior to Saturday, Tabiti had never been past the 6th round of any given fight since his pro debut two years - almost to the date. There were moments where Santos (12-2, 5KOs) appeared on the verge, but the squat journeyman took a beating while living up to his promise of forcing Tabiti (13-0, 12KOs) to go the distance.
Tabiti is promoted by Mayweather Promotions, with company founder and World welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather at ringside.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox