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.