Growing up in Kazakhstan Beibut Shumenov could not have dreamt of fighting for a world championship title at the Mecca of boxing, Las Vegas, United States.
Kazakhstan, infamous for housing Gulags (incarceration camps for political prisoners) during Stalin era of the former Soviet Union, is not a place for a faint of heart. Just to give you an idea of weather conditions over there, as a thirteen year old boy I visited what then was a capital of Kazakhstan, city called Almaty. It was winter time. I got off the train and not able to locate a restroom I decided to relieve myself in the bushes; it was so cold that my pee was frozen before it ever hit the ground.
Beibut was born and raised in Chimkent, the third largest city in Kazakhstan and a major industrial and cultural center, as well as an important railway junction. Shumenov represented Kazakhstan in 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece as a Light heavyweight. He was eliminated in the second round by representative from Turkey.
In 2007 Beibut Shumenov took his show on the road, moved to Las Vegas, Nevada and began a career as a professional prize fighter.
Towering at 6 feet, 2 inches tall, athletically gifted, shaped as a Greek God and with a wealth of international amateur experience behind him, Shumenov ascended up the rankings of light heavyweight division with meteoric speed. In only his sixth professional bout Shumenov dominated a former champion, crafty veteran, Montell Griffin in front of his hometown crowd at Khadjimukan Stadium in Chimkent, Kazakhstan. In only ninth professional outing Beibut Shumenov was fighting a cagey Spaniard, Gabriel Campillo for a WBA light heavyweight championship belt back at home at the new capital of Kazakhstan, Astana. Despite loosing the fight via a controversial majority decision, with most ringside observers believing that he did enough to win, Shumenov blamed no one but himself for the loss and acknowledged that he would have to do a lot more next time to leave no doubt in the eyes of the judges.
Next time came right away. Shumenov (8-1,6KO’S) and Campillo (19-2,6KO’S) are fighting a rematch for the same title this Friday at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. Statistically, most rematches end the same way as original bouts. Would this rematch bring a different result? Shumenov is doing everything he can to insure just that.
Several months ago, he has recruited a new trainer, former Olympian from New Zeeland, Kevin Berry. Well known and respected in the pugilistic circled, Berry has been off the radar in the past six years due to health and legal problems. It took a lot of arm twisting to get Berry to agree to train a new charge, but once they got together it was like a match made in heaven. It’s a win-win situation; Shumenov will get to use wisdom and experience of his new coach in and out of the ring, Berry will be in a corner of a next champion, at least he hopes so.
Shumenov is completely focused on the task at hand and would not talk to reporters before the fight, but I was able to get a hold of Kevin Berry and pick his brain a bit.
“I watched the tape of his previous fight and saw a lot of flaws we could improve on,”said Berry over the phone from Las Vegas:” Two month is not really a long time, but we are making progress.”
“He is a European style fighter, standing straight up,” continued Berry:” We had to work on his balance and sitting down on his punches more. Beibut told me he feels like he hits with more power already. But the most important thing we worked on was his accuracy. Beibut’s shots come with velocity and power, missing would expand a lot of energy, so we worked on his accuracy.”
Berry was very impressed with his new charges athleticism and tremendous work ethic:“The guy is a physical specimen. You do not have to light a fire under him to train. He does the work. We’ve sparred a lot more rounds for this fight than he usually does, but there is a fine line between working hard and overtraining.”
The last world champion from Kazakhstan was a cruiserweight Vassiliy Jirov, who lost his IBF crown in a thriller to James Toney in 2003. Would this little country get another champ on Friday? Stay tuned.