Hopkins vs Shumenov: Beibut Shumenov also wants full unification, starting with 'The Alien'

Ronald Martinez

Bernard Hopkins has been saying for about a year now that it's his goal to unify the titles at 175 pounds, but upcoming opponent and WBA titlist Beibut Shumenov has the same desire, and will attempt to begin that quest with the legend himself.

Beibut Shumenov is going into his April 19 Showtime main event with Bernard Hopkins not specifically as a challenger, but as a fellow titleholder who also wants to make waves in the newly-hot light heavyweight division. Holder of the WBA "super" title, Shumenov (14-1, 9 KO) is still a virtual unknown in the sport, at least in the United States, where he's been featured sparingly on television.

The 30-year-old Kazakh made his Showtime debut just last December, in a fight meant to serve as an audition for a bout with the 49-year-old Hopkins, who then was a spry 48 and hopped into the ring after Shumenov was done taking care of business against unqualified challenger Tamas Kovacs.

"Right after the fight Bernard got in the ring and I got the feeling that the fight would happen in the near future, and right after the fight, I started watching his fights and studying him," Shumenov said on a media conference call this week. "I'm preparing to win each round clearly to leave no doubt for judges, anybody."

This isn't the first time Shumenov has tried to make a fight against a fellow titleholder or one of the division's elite, but it is the first time that he's been successful. He's had a pair of long layoffs recently, missing 11 months from 2011-12 and then 18 months from 2012-13, and wound up fighting mostly fringe contenders, which is a generous description of some of his title fight opponents. Now with Haymon and Golden Boy, Shumenov is in a better spot politically, and was immediately able to land a big-time opportunity.

"At that time, I was promoting myself and we tried to make a fight against (Nathan) Cleverly; it didn't happen, and then, we tried to make a unification title fight against Chad Dawson," Shumenov said. "Again, we didn't get any success. So, I couldn't get any of those big names, and I couldn't get to all those big networks. That's why I got stuck and couldn't do anything."

Like Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 KO), Shumenov says his ultimate goal is to unify the light heavyweight titles, even if that is likely little more than a fantasy in today's boxing climate -- not just for this division, but for all of them. Hopkins, of course, has been mentioned as a likely opponent later this year for WBC and Ring Magazine champion Adonis Stevenson, which is thought to be one of the biggest reasons Stevenson left HBO for Showtime. Shumenov says it's a motivation to be sort of overlooked in that regard.

"My main goal is to unify all the titles and I'm not thinking ahead," he said. "I'm only concentrated and focused on my upcoming fight against Bernard Hopkins, and it kind of motivates me more. They're only talking about Bernard facing Adonis Stevenson. It motivates me more. I don't care. It makes me train even harder. It makes me be a better fighter."

Given that Hopkins turned pro when Shumenov was five years old, he's seen over the years what "The Alien" has done, at both middleweight and light heavyweight. "I'm not just a boxer, but I'm also boxing fan," he said. "So, I've always watched all the big names when they fight Bernard."

Shumenov will not, however, share anything from his sessions spent studying Hopkins' past fights.

"I cannot discuss the knowledge that I have about Bernard's work. Out of all the studies, I cannot discuss the knowledge as I've been perfecting myself against Bernard Hopkins, and I'm at the final stage with my preparation, so people will get to see my capabilities."

Shumenov does share the general fan's admiration for what Hopkins has accomplished in his career, and what he's still capable of doing at such an advanced -- old, frankly -- age. "It's truly amazing. It's unbelievable. It's incredible. I don't see where in the past or in the future anybody could do what Bernard does."

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