The exchanges between Bernard Hopkins and Beibut Shumenov during the press conference and weigh-in for the Saturday’s light heavyweight title fight have added another level of tension to this showdown. Hopkins was pulling shenanigans that have become typical over the course of his career. Shumenov, however, showed a slight crack in his poise that has been constant in the weeks leading up to the fight.
"Now we've got a promotion," Hopkins said at the press conference. "He's alive. He's got a pulse."
It took a lot to get a reaction out of Shumenov. First, Hopkins took away Shumenov’s WBA title belt at the press conference and placed it with his own IBF belt. Then he ridiculed Shumenov’s wealthy upbringing and said he was “fighting for a hobby.”
"Yesterday, at the final press conference, he took my belts. That was very disrespectful," said Shumenov. "We are not just boxers, we are warriors, and we put our lives on the line."
That was his most colorful comment about the exchange.
Hopkins is crazy like a fox and his antics are most likely intended to drum up interest in the fight and throw Shumenov off of his game. One just has to hope that boxing fans don’t believe “The Alien’s” hogwash.
Maybe Hopkins does make one valid point, though. Shumenov did not grow up in the Philadelphia projects, get stabbed twice before the age of 17 and serve five years in prison. He just grew up in Soviet-run Kazakhstan. His only near-death experience came from being poisoned by bad milk as a child and only survived through having an IV put in his skull. Shumenov was told he would be small and to avoid extreme physical activity. He responded with workouts that should make Hopkins proud.
After the Soviet Union dissolved, Shumenov’s family had no money and had to ask relatives for food. However, they were able to benefit from the country’s new capitalist economy and open numerous marketplaces, eventually making them very wealthy.
Shumenov became a lawyer, but his true love since being a child, and seeing videos of Mike Tyson, was boxing. He represented Kazakhstan in the 2004 Olympics, but lost in the Round of 16.
He moved to the United States in 2007 and turned professional later that year. In 2010, Shumenov beat Gabriel Campillo for the WBA Light Heavyweight title. With only ten fights under belt, he had set the record for becoming the champion the fastest in the history of the light heavyweight division.
Now, after five title defenses, Shumenov is scheduled to face Hopkins. The Alien is hands-down the toughest opponent of his career.
"I'm very excited that I'm fighting one of the greatest fighters ever,” said Shumenov. “That's the way for me to show the world that I am the best in the world.”
Whether Shumenov is one of the best fighters in the world is yet to be determined. Hopkins has managed to frustrate and decision boxers with more impressive resumes than Shumenov’s so if the Kazakhstani wins, he will find himself in the upper echelon of boxing.
“My main goal is to unify all the titles and I'm not thinking ahead,” said Shumenov. “I'm only concentrated and focused on my upcoming fight against Bernard Hopkins, and it kind of motivates me more.”
Regardless of what happens Saturday night, one thing is certain. Bernard Hopkins is not fighting some kid born with a silver spoon in his mouth and he needs to stop telling the boxing community that. Now.