Beibut Shumenov had his way with Danny Santiago last night in Las Vegas on Solo Boxeo Tecate, which surprised no one. But former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal was in attendance, and Pascal said he's interested in bringing Shumenov, who holds the WBA belt at 175 pounds, to Canada for a fight.
Shumenov had a different idea.
"He said he wanted to fight me in Canada," Shumenov said. "I said he was from Canada, I'm from Kazakhstan, so let's fight in Las Vegas where all champions dream of fighting. Pascal, Cloud, Dawson, I'm ready for anybody!"
Shumenov (12-1, 8 KO) stopped Santiago (31-5-1, 19 KO) in the ninth round and had no real trouble along the way. The only surprise might have been that the fight lasted as long as it did, as the 38-year-old Santiago was by all fair accounts a very weak title challenger for Shumenov, whose early career ambition has settled into a stagnation and a bit of a holding pattern.
There is no doubt that Pascal (26-2-1, 16 KO) would be a great fight for him next, and a step up in class from anyone he's fought thus far, except for perhaps Gabriel Campillo. Shumenov fought Campillo twice, losing to him at home in Kazakhstan, and then getting what many felt was a gift decision in January 2010 when the two rematched in Vegas. That fight gave Shumenov his belt, and though many felt a rubber match should have happened immediately, it has not and likely will not come to pass.
So where can Shumenov go next? Pascal is a great option, but not unless Shumenov is willing to travel to Canada, where Pascal makes money and draws real crowds. Shumenov vs Pascal in Las Vegas sounds like a dead night at the gate no matter the actual venue.
The division's other titlists are Bernard Hopkins (WBC, plus legit championship), Nathan Cleverly (WBO), and Tavoris Cloud (IBF). Cloud may be an option given that he is also not a major draw and would likely be happy to go to Vegas and fight Shumenov. Cleverly, like Pascal, can draw at home. Hopkins has bigger name fish to fry and at 46 isn't likely to fight someone like Shumenov.
The WBA's rankings are standard sanctioning body rankings. Other titlists are excluded, and Santiago was actually the No. 15 contender (the lowest-ranked contender Shumenov could fight for the belt). The No. 1-ranked contender is still Campillo, while such notables as Joe Spina, Sullivan Barrera, Joel Casey, and Tommy Karpency are also in the top 15. The best fighters in the top 15 are Campillo (1), Zsolt Erdei (4), Pascal (5), and Karo Murat (13). Erdei and Pascal appear on a collision course with one another.
More likely than not, Shumenov will wind up biding his time with fringe contenders (being nice) like Santiago. Because of fights this year with Santiago and faded William Joppy, Shumenov's hype has faded some. As a titlist, he's no longer getting props for being a prospect facing veterans the way he did early on with Montell Griffin, Epifanio Mendoza, and Byron Mitchell. Fights similar to those are now not good enough, whether or not Shumenov is just 13 fights into his pro career or not. He set his own bar.
And if it weren't for the controversy with Campillo, maybe this wouldn't be such a big deal at all. The solution seems obvious: That third fight with Campillo still needs to happen. And I still wouldn't bank on it.