Those who viewed that this month’s WBSS final between unbeaten East Europeans Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev would conclusively establish the premier prize fighter in the Cruiserweight parish might be required to re-evaluate.
After a two-year hibernation, big, bad Beibut Shumenov, Kazakhstan’s only two-weight World Champion has dramatically resurfaced to extend the argument.
This weekend, in a BoxNation screened bash to celebrate Astana’s 20th anniversary as the Kazakh capital, the Beast from the East busts beaks with 30-1 German based Turk Hizni Altunkaya seeking to reclaim his (now vacant) WBA ‘regular’ belt.
In a career spanning 11 years, the frighteningly combative Shumenov has debated nine World Championships and conceded just twice – both times by decisions to World Champions, both times when the judges were split.
After storming the record annuls as the quickest ever World Light-Heavyweight champion in 2010, the formidable Shumenov reigned on the WBA throne for 52 months. Then, when strimming his muscular 6ft 2in frame beneath 12st 7lbs became an unmanageable chore, the Kazakh crashed the Cruiserweight class and scooped the WBA Title there before abdicating as undefeated Champion.
But bruiser Beibut isn’t just one of the finest fighters British fans have seldom seen, he also owns one of the most remarkable background stories that you’ve never read!
Son of a school teacher mum and government accountant dad, he was born into relative affluence in Shymkent in 1983. However, his early years were far from trouble free.
The stubborn refusal to wilt in battle can be traced to his infant years. He was extremely fortunate to see his first birthday after consumption of spoiled milk poisoned his blood stream. The insertion of an IV into his temple helped avert death but left him with a weak immune system and stunted growth. Medics strongly cautioned against any excessive physical exertion.
And the delicate soul certainly had no cause to fight. His parents had swiftly embraced the commercial opportunities that followed Kazakh independence in 1991 and, thriving in the bazaars and construction, the Shumenovs were soon one of the wealthiest families in the region.
But an infatuation to Bruce Lee initially enticed Beibut to the combative arts – he dabbled with judo, wrestling and Muay Thai – before the violence of Mike Tyson persuaded him to seek out the Central Stadium boxing gym in his early teens.
By the age of 20, the once weak and sickly man confounded the medics by topping the podium at the 2004 Asian Games and even enjoyed a personal audience with the Kazakh President ahead of his participation at the 2004 Athens Olympics. However, compromised by a fractured hand, he was eliminated in the second series.
Continuing to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle, Beibut graduated in law and secured a lavish salary as a judge’s clerk but his unfulfilled ring aspirations continued to haunt him. Aged 24, he forsook all and set sail for Vegas to pursue a paid career under the tutelage of three-weight World Champion Mike McCallum.
Now blessed with brain and brawn in equal measure, beastly Beibut cut a swathe through the 175lb division. US National Golden Gloves Champion Lavell Finger copped for the full count in his fifth gig and, in his following start, ex WBC king Montell Griffin was bashed up before 30,000 crazy Kazakhs at a Shymkent football stadium. A four-round slaughter of two-time WBA Super-Middle boss Byron Mitchell in his eighth start catapulted the lean volume puncher into a crack at reigning WBA boss Gabriel Campillo just 21 months after debuting!
Though edged out on a majority in Astana in August 2009, the Kazakh atoned when he re-sat the exam five months after, winning a hairline nod over the Spanish southpaw in Vegas, to re-set the divisional record.
Alas, that express start was not sustained. Pleas to unify fell on deaf ears and he defended just five times in almost four and a half years. Three-time WBA Middleweight czar William Joppy, Contender participant Danny Santiago and 23-0 Slovakian were all rubbed out ahead of schedule while 22-0 Ukrainian Vyacheslav Uzelkov and hardy Mexican Enrique Ornelas where comprehensively outscored on the cards. Few seemed to care.
When his chance to strut on the biggest stage finally landed, mightily muscled Shumenov had effectively outgrown the division and, fighting on fumes, he fell late and surrendered a 12-round split to the incomparable Bernard Hopkins.
That should’ve been suffice for the ‘well to do’ warrior who is conversant in five languages and whose business acumen permits him to reside in a 10,000 sq ft, $5.3m property in one of Nevada’s swankier neighbourhoods…but it wasn’t!
Fifteen months after Hopkins, the Al Haymon advised, Ismael Salas coached warmonger scooped the ‘interim’ WBA Cruiser strap with a bruising 12 round decision over BJ Flores screened on NBCSN, live from Vegas. Ten months on, in the same city, he completed his redemption by upgrading to the governing agency’s ‘regular’ title with a comprehensive stoppage of 15-1-1 Junior Anthony Wright.
Shumenov would almost certainly have copped an invite for the revolutionary WBSS series had he not scratched the cornea on his right eye whilst sparring for a June 2017 mandatory with 21-0 (20) Cuban cruncher Yunier Dorticos.
However, now fully rehabilitated, the 34-year-old remains lightly raced (17-2, 11 early exits) and full of fire. If he prevails as predicted on his eagerly awaited return this weekend, the WBSS winner won’t be able to boast absolute hegemony until they’ve addressed him.