Combining the invaluable experience he gained as world light heavyweight champion with a different style of boxing introduced to him by his new head trainer, Ismael Salas, Beibut Shumenov used his impressive cruiserweight debut Dec. 13 to prove his legitimacy as a world title contender in the 200-pound division.
Shumenov (15-2, 10 KOs), a former World Boxing Association (WBA) light heavyweight champion and 2004 Kazakhstan Olympian, outclassed opponent Bobby Thomas, Jr. (14-3, 9 KOs) on his way to victory by way of a fifth-round technical knockout.
“It’s much easier for me fighting at 200 pounds than 175,” Shumenov explained. “My body couldn’t take it anymore. When I first came to America seven years ago, I planned to fight as a heavyweight or cruiserweight because I weighed 240-245 pounds. When I moved here to Las Vegas everybody my size were super middleweights and light heavyweights. The decision was made then for me to fight as a light heavyweight.
“I’m not making excuses but I lost 55 pounds for my last fight. I saw opportunities but my body failed me. I wanted to throw punches but my body didn’t respond. I made a decision to move up to cruiserweight and also added a great head coach, Ismael Salas. He teaches the Cuban boxing style and (assistant trainer) Jeff (Grmoja) uses an old-school American style. And Rodney Crisler (team member) shares his knowledge, too. I have a great team supporting me.”
The 31-year-old Shumenov, currently the No. 2 rated cruiserweight in the WBA, captured the WBA light heavyweight title January 29, 2010 with a 12-round decision over Gabriel Campillo in only his 10th professional fightto establish the fewest-fights record for a world light heavyweight champion. Five successful title defenses followed but the muscular Shumenov had more and more problems making weight, in addition to being self-trained in his last three fights prior to last Saturday’s in Las Vegas.
Equally important as moving up in weight to avoid sapping his strength was adding Salas to his corner. Salas came to the United States 25 years ago and he has trained the likes of Guillermo Rigondeaux, Yuriokis Gamboa, Danny Green, Jesse Vargas and Jorge Linares.
The Cuban boxing style Salas teaches is similar to what Shumenov learned in Kazakhstan developing through its then Soviet Union boxing program. Positive chemistry between the two was immediate and early dividends were evident in Shumenov’s fight against Thomas.
Post-fight celebration (L-R) cut-man Jacob “Stitch” Duran, Beibut Shumenov, head trainer Ismael Salas, team member Rodney Crisler and Beibut’s younger brother, Chingas Shumenov.
“Most importantly,” Shumenov noted, “I followed the instructions of my coach in this fight. For us, it wasn’t important to knockout my opponent in the first round. This fight was a test for my new style in a real fight. I used my new tools – footwork and more angles to punch. My body listened this fight and it did everything my head wanted to be done. I’m still in the learning process, though.”
“I’m very happy that Beibut was so comfortable and that he stuck to the game plan from the first round until the end,” Salas commented after the fight. “Every fight is a learning experience. We liked what we saw during the fight; Beibut did everything I asked of him.”
Grmoja (far left) has worked with Shumenov for several years and he was amazed at how well Shumenov and Salas clicked in such a relatively short training period. “They only had 78 days working together,” Grmoja added. “Beibut completely changed his style and during the fight he didn’t go back to fighting the old way like so many guys do. He didn’t fight off balance, throw wild punches, or keep his head up and his hands down. He will win the world cruiserweight title in 2015 to become a two-division world champion.”
The reigning world cruiserweight champions are WBA Denis Lebedev (Russia), IBF Yoan Pablo Hernandez (Germany), WBC Krzysztof Wlodarczyr and WBO Marco Huck (Germany).
“My power is stronger at cruiserweight because there’s no stress on my body to make weight like there was at light heavyweight,” Shumenov concluded. “Hopefully, I will get an opportunity early next year to fight for a world title. I’m ready! If not, I want to stay busy until my adviser, Al Haymon, gets me a world cruiserweight title shot.”
Fans may friend Beibut Shumenov on his Facebook Fan Page at www.facebook.com/BeibutShumenov.