Newly crowned World Boxing Association (WBA) Interim cruiserweight champion Beibut Shumenov (16-2, 10 KOs) recently made history once again, defeating B.J. Flores (31-2-1, 20 KOs) by way of a 12-round unanimous decision as Premier Boxing Champions series headliner, which aired July 25th on NBCSN live from The Palms in Las Vegas.
Shumenov, 31, became the mandatory challenger for WBA "regular" cruiserweight champion Denis Lebedev (27-1, 20 KOs, 1 NC), of Russia, as well as the first Kazakhstan native to capture a world title in two different weight classes having been the WBA light heavyweight champion from 2010-2014.
Boxing hotbed Kazakhstan has produced five other world champions during the past quarter-century: 1990 WBC super featherweight Aratoly Alexandrov, 2000 WBC heavyweight Oleg "Big O" Maskaev, 2001-2003 - IBF cruiserweight Vassily "The Tiger" Jirov, 2010-2012 WBA super middleweight Dimitri Sartison and reigning WBA Super/WBC Interim middleweight Gennady Golovkin.
In his fist historic fight back in 2010, Shumenov defeated defending WBA light heavyweight champion Gabriel Campillo via 12-round decision to establish the record for fewest fights, 10, to become world champion of a major organization in the 175-pound division.
"I am very proud to set another record in boxing," 2004 Olympian Shumenov said. "I'm honored to be the first fighter from my country to become world champion in two divisions. I'd like to thank my manager, Al Haymon, for giving me this opportunity. Lebedev is the main target and, if I pass that test, I want to fight the best fighters in the cruiserweight division."
Shumenov went through a style transformation, under the direction of famed Cuban head coach Ismael Salas, who worked with the athletic Kazakh to change him from an aggressive, grinding fighter into a more complete, all-around boxer. Shumenov baffled Flores, who expected Shumenov to come to him and exchange punches, which would have given the naturally bigger, stronger Flores an advantage. Instead, Shumenov masterfully boxed his way to victory, using lateral movement, angles and positioning to frustrate Flores into ineffective aggression, resulting in an array of off-balance punches and misses.
After the fight, Shumenov explained the surprising change he went through after training with Salas since January. "I'm still in the learning process. Like my trainer says, there are no limits, and I still haven't perfected what he's teaching me. It really comes down to a lot of hard work, repetitions of muscle memory. My footwork for this fight came from my trainer. I was happy to be victorious but I still see myself getting a lot better, overall, as a complete boxer."
Salas also trains World Boxing Council (WBC) World Lightweight Champion Jorge Linares (39-3, 26 KOs), in addition to handling past and present world champions such as Guillermo Rigondeaux, Yuriokis Gamboa, Danny Green, and Jesse Vargas.
"There is a process for everybody in terms of bio-mechanics," Salas commented. "There are specialties of training I teach that aren't used often in boxing, specific exercises for the dynamics of motion. I originally learned to coach in the Cuban system, which is similar to the Soviet system in which Beibut first learned, but I've also been all over the world learning different methods of training. It still takes time for a world-class fighter like Beibut, who has been world champion as a professional, and had many amateur matches. Jorge Linares was a two-time world champion before we started working together. Beibut is getting there. He's still not at his full potential, right now, using only 40-50 percent of his tools."
Shumenov is a lawyer and successful businessman who speaks five languages. Although he's a two-time world champion, he's still a student of boxing, and Salas is his highly respected professor.
"He's (Salas) humble but a genius," Shumenov insists. "He asks and listens to my opinions. We concentrate on fundamentals and he explains everything to me. Our team had a daily routine in camp in which we shared our knowledge after each training session. The four of us (Shumenov, Salas, Grmjoja and Crisler) became one."
And the result was a second world title.