This coming Saturday fight fans will get the chance to see the WBA further make a mockery of the idea of having a single world champion in every division. They will be doing that by crowning a 4th champion at Cruiserweight, with Kazakh Beibut Shumenov (17-2, 11) and German based Turk Hizni Altunkaya (30-1, 17) battling for the WBA “regular” Cruiserweight title.
Part of the farcical nature of this bout comes from the fact the WBA have a unified champion, Murat Gassiev, a champion in recess, Denis Lebedev, and am interim champion Arsen Goulamirian. But it becomes a bigger farce when one realises that Shumenov, the WBA #2 ranked fighter, hasn't fought since May 2016, retiring due to an eye injury before un-retiring, and that Altunkaya enters as the #3 ranked WBA fighter. Altunkaya has once just once in the last 12 months, beating the frankly terrible Niko Lohmann in January, and having faced just one fighter of any note, Krzysztof Glowacki, who stopped Altunkaya in June 2017.
At his best Shumenov was a raw, but capable, boxer-puncher. He was fast tracked early in his career and claimed the WBA Light Heavyweight title in his 10th professional bout, back in 2010, with a very controversial decision win against Gabriel Campillo. His reign was a poor one, with 5 defenses in 4 years before he lost to Bernard Hopkins in a WBA/IBF unification bout. Following the loss to Hopkins Shumenov moved up in weight and would win the interim, and regular, WBA Cruiserweight titles, with wins over BJ Flores and Junior Anthony Wright. He would then be forced to retire, as mentioned, due to issues with his sight.
At the age of 34 Shumenov is seeking to become a 3-time world champion and make a successful return. Whilst it's an admirable dream the fact he's getting a world title fight, for a vacant belt, given his long lay off and the WBA's current title situation, does leave a terrible taste in the mouth. It feels obvious that the WBA have, in the past, bent over for Shumenov and it seems like they are doing the same for him again. That, added to some awful cards in his favour, has long left someone questioning what Shumenov has done to have such preferential treatment. He's a good fighter, but has certainly had more than his share of good fortune.
Altunkaya is a 30 year old who's boxrec ranking, at the time of writing, is 71 which seems far, far, far, far more accurate than the #3 ranking that the WBA have given him. He's been a professional since 2008 and his record is incredibly padded, with his best win on paper being a decision over Salvatore Aiello, who's was 29-0 at the time and had a record that was possibly the most padded in the sport at the time. Since then there has only been one notable name that Altunkaya has faced, and that was Glowacki who dominated the Turk.
With absolute no wins of any quality on his record it's impossible to understand what Altunkaya has done to deserve a world title fight. He is a true bottom feeder. Worryingly however he may well have gotten this bout at the perfect time to put himself on the boxing map given the inactivity and injuries of Shumenov. He's certainly the younger, more healthy fighter than Shumenov, but he's also the more limited and the less durable.
We suspect that Shumenov's extra class, quality of experience and skills will take him to a victory here, though wouldn't be surprised if his injuries reared their head and his inactivity and age showed. Either way we do now expect the winner of this bout to hold on to the title for long. Hopefully that will be because they lose it to one of the other champions recognised by the organisation, but we never can be too sure with the WBA and their inconsistent nature of running their own world titles.
We often wonder what the WBA are playing at. They seem happy to try and turn their own legacy into a joke and their titles into something every fighter can claim a version of. That's going to be the case again on June 20th when two men, who really should be nowhere near the Cruiserweight title scene, battle for the very lightly regarded WBA “interim” Cruiserweight title.
The fighters in question are part-time fighter part time commentator BJ Flores (31-1-1, 20) and former Light Heavyweight title holder Beibut Shumenov (15-2, 10), of Kazakhstan.
For us the fighter of note is Shumenov. He's a Kazakh fighter who made his name very early in his career. At one point he was among the most interest and fast rising prospects in the sport. Within a year of his debut he had raced out to 6-0 (5) and scored notable wins, including a wide decision over former Light Heavyweight champion Montell Griffin. It seemed, during that early stage, that we were on the verge of a special career. Sadly though that year wasn't really a glimpse at what was to come, Shumenov never really managed to improve from the fighter he was. He did, in fairness, claim the WBA Light Heavyweight title, in his second attempt, in just his 10th bout, a divisional record, but he needed a massive gift to get him the title.
As the champion Shumenov's reign was nothing but disappointing. He held the title for more than 4 years, recorded 6 defenses, yet didn't score a single relevant win a division that had fighters screaming out for opportunities. Instead of facing the likes of Nathan Cleverly, Glen Johnson, Chad Dawson, Jean Pascal, Chad Dawson, Isaac Chilemba, Juergen Breahmer and countless others Shumenov took on fighters like Danny Satiago and William Joppy. It was a disgusting title reign that the WBA allowed by not enforcing Shumenov to face a mandatory and essentially allowing him to put the title on ice for 18 months, whilst they upgraded him to “Super champion”.
Thankfully Shuemnov's reign came to an end in 2014 when he was clearly beaten by Bernard Hopkins, despite the disgraceful card of Gustavo Padilla, who seems to have been the only person on the planet who felt Shumenov actually won the fight. Since then Shumenov has fought once, beating Bobby Thomas Jr via a 5th round TKO. Despite only fighting once as a Cruiserweight Shumenov is ranked #1 by the WBA, in a division that is genuinely stacked with talent. Boxrec.com have Shumenov a much more realistic #22 in their rankings, and even that seems a touch kind to the Kazakh.
Style wise Shumenov is very basic. He's got heavy hands, like it seems most Kazakh fighters now a days, and he's tough and very game but technically he's very limited, defensively open, has a face that marks up easily and seems to some how combine respect with arrogance. In the Hopkins fight it seemed Shumenov was too respectful in the build up though had no trainer work his corner, as if he though he'd beat Hopkins with out any help. A foolish mover against someone was wiley and intelligent as Hopkins.
American fighter Flores is a solid boxer, but solid is about the nicest we can be about him. On paper his record is impressive but scratching below the surface leaves us thoroughly under-whelmed. His first career set back came very early, as he fought to a draw with Gabriel Taylor, 1-2 going in to that bout, and was dropped twice as Flores luckily escaped with a draw. That was back in 2003.
Scratching a bit deep into Flores's record he lacks a really big win. His best win to date was a very close one over Darnell Wilson, back in 2008. He did later claim a win over Epifanio Mendoza, though pulled him up to Crusierweight for the bout, incidentally 8 months earlier Shumenov took a wide decision over Mendoza at Light Heavyweight and Mendoza had entered the Flores bout 1-3 in his previous 4.
Whilst Flores managed to get the W against Wilson he was no where to close to beating his first live opponent, Danny Green. Green took a very comfortable win over Flores who often seemed unwilling, or unable to, pick up the pace despite being behind from early in the bout. Green wasn't hugely impressive but managed to out box Flores who showed glimpses of real ability but lacked the mentality to build on his successes.
To be fair to Flores he's technically a decent fighter with a nice jab and relatively decent speed for a big guy. He's also a smart guy out of the ring, which he proves when he's doing commentary work. Sadly however that intelligence isn't shown when Flores is fighting and his inability to turn up the pace and change his tactics really is an issue. He's coming into this bout on a 7 fight winning streak since the loss to Green but those wins have come against some terribly limited opposition, not the type of fighters that should lead someone to a “world” title fight, or a WBA #7 world ranking! Again boxrec's ranking, #29 at the time of writing, is much more accurate.
Given the depth at Cruiserweight, which includes not only champions like Marco Huck, Denis Lebedev, Grigory Drozd, Yoan Pablo Hernandez and Victor Emilio Ramirez but also fantastic contenders like Rakhim Chakhkiev, Oleksander Usyk, Dmitry Kudryashov, Ilunga Makabu and Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, this seems like a genuinely pathetic match up. The WBA should really be ashamed of it.
As to what's likely to happen in the ring, we suspect Flores will be too technically capable for Shumenov. The American has a longer reach and should be able to keep Shumenov at range with his jab. However if Flores sleep walks through the bout there is good chance he gets out worked by the clumsy Shumenov.
The one good bit of news from this bout is that the winner should be forced to fight Denis Lebedev, who would easily see of either man. Sadly however that “good news” comes with the caveat that the WBA won't be in any sort of a rush to match the winner with Lebedev, another disappointing feature of the WBA's willingness to create titles for almost anybody in the sport.
Not many people are described as "living legends" whilst still participating in their chosen field but for the ageless Bernard Hopkins (54-6-2-2, 32) that is an apt description. The current IBF Light Heavyweight champion is truly one of boxing's legendary fighters and whether you like him or not you simply need to respect him for being able to compete at the elite level in his and late 40's.
Now aged 49 Hopkins is battling father time just as much as opponents and just like like his opponents he seems to find a way to halt the assault of father time like no other. He's fitter than our team and we're all relative young "whippers nappers" compared to Hopkins, in fact we're barely his age when you combine us.
This weekend however Hopkins faces his most determined opponent in a long time as he battles Kazakh Beibut Shumenov (14-1, 9), a man who is attempting to unify his own WBA "super" title with the IBF belt of Hopkins and prove that he is the strongest fighter at 175lbs.
For many their entire viewing history of Shumenov was his victory last time out against the horribly over-matched Tamas Kovacs. Kovacs went in to that bout unbeaten in 23 though simply couldn't cope with the strength of Shumenov who hurt almost every time he landed until finally finishing the show in the 3rd round. From watching that fight alone Shumenov looked sensational though it was a clear showcase event for him to look having just signed with Golden Boy Promotions. That was his first fight with Golden Boy and it seemed clear that the intention, even then, was to pit him with Hopkins down the line.
Before being able to pit Shumenov with Hopkins they had to "legitimise him" for the US audience and the blow out over Kovacs did just that. It made Shumenov look a killer.
Unfortunately for Shumenov he's not a killer. That's not to say that he's not talented because he is very good, very strong and powerful with both hands however he is awfully basic and the victory over Kovacs allowed him to hide his flaws by simply using his strengths. Kovacs was unable to make Shumenov pay for technical limitations, his lack of speed, his somewhat basic foot work and his less than great engine. These were flaws shown in both of Shumenov's bout with Gabriel Campillo's and whilst he "won" one of those, very questionably, they are flaws we still think he has to this very day.
For Hopkins, one of the most technically sound fighters on the planet, it's the flaws of Shumenov that will come in to play. Hopkins is smart, accurate and very technically accomplished. He may now be lacking speed but he has fantastic timing, spots weaknesses in a heartbeat and most worrying for Shumenov he can control opponents both mentally and physically. With a fighter who has obvious flaws Hopkins tends to have a field day and we'd not be shocked if he landed his counter right straight time and time again on Shumenov.
On paper we all have to favour Hopkins his skill level, like his nick name "The Alien", is out of this world. At 49 though and against a genuinely strong, determined fighter with genuine power and desire to be the best this isn't a given. Hopkins's fight with father time could take it's toll at any point, Shumenov's natural strength may take it's toll and although Hopkins is wonderfully gifted and defensively very cute he has been taking more risks in recent bouts with his contest against Karo Murat last year being full of Hopkins aggression which is unusual.
If Hopkins takes unnecessary risks against Shumenov here he may be forced to pay for it with Shumenov's thudding power. Shumenov isn't like fellow Light Heavyweight champions Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson, who both have lights out power when they connect, but he is heavy handed and when he connects fighters do feel it. That's the sort of power that can certainly take it's toll on a 49 year old body, even one taken care of like that of Hopkins.
Although Hopkins is rightfully the favourite we do think the American could be given a few troubles at times from Shumenov. The big question as for Shumenov's chances are whether or not he has too much respect for Hopkins or not. If he does then he's already lost but if he refuses to show Hopkins too much respect in the ring he stands half a chance the upset victory and a career defining victory for the man who was, for a long time, left out in the cold and avoided by most other top Light Heavyweights.
Can Shumenov retire Hopkins? Possibly, be he's going to need some serious help from father time
(Picture courtesy of shosports)
When we think about disappointing world champions over the past few years no one really compares to WBA Light Heavyweight "super" champion Biebut Shumenov (13-1, 8).
Shumenov, a former amateur standout from Kazakhstan, seemed like one of the most exciting fighters on the planet when he turned professional way back in 2007. Inside a year of being a pro Shumenov had entered the world rankings, moved his record to an impressive 6-0 (5) and had defeated former world champion Montell Griffin.
The impressive start to Shumenov's career just more and more impressive with him fighting for a world title in his 9th professional contest. Although Shumenov lost, dropping a decision to the then WBA Light Heavyweight champion Gabriel Campillo, he had still impressed with his performance. His performance was so good that he got a rematch, one that he won albeit controversially.
Since winning the WBA title way back in January 2010 Shumenov has defended it just 4 times, the most recent of which came back in June 2012. Yes, it's been 18 months since Shumenov was last active. We're not sure why but the talented and hard hitting Kazakh went from being one of the most exciting fighters in the sport to being an inactive title holder but sadly that's what he's become.
Thankfully this weekend sees the long awaited return to action of Shumenov as he takes on the unbeaten Slovakian Tamas Kovacs (23-0, 14). Aged 36 this will be, by a long, the biggest fight of Kovacs career and a fight that could define his career, if he wins.
Unfortunately for Kovacs the odds are stacked against him, despite the fact he is unbeaten.
Not only is Kovacs 36 but he has several other issues going against him. Firstly this will be his first fight outside of Europe. Although he has fought outside of Slovakia he's never gone further than places like Austria, Hungary and Germany. The journey from Europe to the US, where this fight will be, is likely to have an effect of Kovacs.
Secondly Kovacs has never fought anyone of real note. His most famous opponent is probably Hamza Wandera, the younger brother of Kassim Ouma. Not only is Wandera the most notable on Kovacs record but also the man who gave Kovacs the toughest test dropping him twice en route to losing a majority decision.
From the fact Wandera could drop and hurt Kovacs it leaves us with just one conclusion, Shumenov will stop Kovacs. It may not be early and it may take Shumenov a few rounds to shake off the 18 months of ring rust but eventually Shumenov will break down Kovacs who is really one of the weakest world title challengers in a very long time.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.