During a Q&A with RingTV.com, WBA light heavyweight beltholder Beibut Shumenov talks about his near-death experience as an infant, called IBF counterpart Bernard Hopkins "the best champion" in the 175-pound division, and said he was shocked to hear the controversial comments that WBO titleholder Sergey Kovalev recently made about African Americans.
Shumenov (14-1, 9 knockouts), a 30-year-old 2004 Kazakhstan Olympian living in Las Vegas, ended an 18-month absence to score one knockdown each in the first, second and final round of a third-round stoppage over Tamas Kovacs for the fifth defense of his belt in December.
Hopkins was ringside for Shumenov's victory at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer is targeting Hopkins-Shumenov for the spring, with the idea that the winner could face the victor between Kovalev and RING and WBC champion Adonis Stevenson.
Shumenov dethroned Gabriel Campillo by split decision in January of 2010, avenging a loss by majority decision in their previous fight in August of 2009.
Shumenov established a record for the light heavyweight division by defeating Campillo in just his 10th professional bout before making the first defense in July with a unanimous decision over Vyacheslav Uzelkov, who had knocked out Campillo in 2007.
Shumenov also discusses having signed with advisor Al Haymon in this Q&A:
RingTV.com: Can you discuss your educational and family background?
Shumenov: I grew up in Shymkent, Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union until 1991. My father was an accountant for the government and my mother was a school teacher, and they worked extremely long hours.
Kazakhstan gained its freedom in 1991, but that is all we received. We didn't have enough money for bread back in those early days. Before the independence, everyone was the same. Afterwards, we had to adjust. There were some very bad days.
We went through a few failed businesses in the beginning but everyone went through those hard days. We had limited food. You went from a standard salary to trying to make it on your own.
My parents applied their non-stop, tireless work ethic into their success now today. I am blessed to have a mother and father like I do who I love unconditionally.
In addition to my boxing company that I have in the United States, I went to law school along with my brother. I have a law degree and my brother, Chingis, is now the Deputy Mayor of Shymkent.
RingTV.com: Can you discuss your background in martial arts?
Shumenov: As an infant, I almost died while my aunts were suppose to be watching me as my parents were working. They gave me poisonous milk and when my father came home two weeks later and found me. I was all blue. My parents rushed me to the hospital, but because it had seeped into my blood stream, they gave me only a few days to live.
While the doctors tried to save me and purge the toxins from my veins, my parents prayed for a miracle and it happened. I survived, but I had a very weakened body and low tolerance for anything physical during my young childhood, and my lungs were always giving out.
I had no energy to play anything. Because of all of this, I dreamt of being strong. So later on, I studied tae kwon do, karate, wrestling, kick boxing, muay thai and boxing.
I got started in these at around age six and I started with tae kwon do. I spent almost half of my life in the hospitals, and all I wanted to be was a strong man. I was always watching movies with Bruce Lee and fights of Mike Tyson inspired me, too.
RingTV.com: Can you talk about the two fights with Campillo and how you grew as a result of them?
Shumenov: I had only eight fights before I stepped into the highest level of competition with a world title fight, and to be honest, I wasn't ready. I had two tough fights with him. I realized I wasn't ready yet to fight at that level, and after that, I changed my approach to the boxing.
I started approaching the boxing more scientifically, spending a lot more time at the gym and trying new training techniques to improve my skills. The result of the new approach showed in my next fight against Uzelkov which. I won decisively.
Uzelkov had previously knocked out Campillo. To this day, I am still improving with each and every fight. Some people are still comparing me to that fighter in those two fights with Campillo but I am 100 times better now then that guy over four years ago.
RingTV.com: How big was signing with Golden Boy and Al Haymon in advancing your career and increasing your exposure?
Shumenov: I was having problems getting the big fights because I was on my own. Now, having Mr. Haymon in my corner, all my past efforts are going to materialize. I am forever thankful to Mr. Haymon and Golden Boy for believing in me and Showtime for providing me the opportunity to fight on their network.
RingTV.com: What does Stevenson do well? Kovalev? Hopkins?
Shumenov: Stevenson and Kovalev just recently became world champions, and they haven't done anything yet to claim they are the best in the division. While Hopkins, I consider him the best champion in our weight division. He is a boxing genius and a legend. That's why I want to fight the best.
RingTV.com: What would you have to do, strategically, to defeat each of the other titleholders in the division?
Shumenov: I already know exactly how to fight with each of those fighters, but I'm not going to reveal that. They will see when they step in the ring to fight me.
RingTV.com: What were your thoughts on Hopkins' performance against Murat, and can you assess how you believe that a fight with Hopkins will go?
Shumenov: Hopkins looked pretty good against Murat, and he showed that not only does he have great skills, but he can take hard punches and he didn't even blink. I know that I will be fighting with a super human and that I will have to do my extra best to get the victory.
I was ready to fight at this level for several years now. I have been dreaming for this kind of fight all of my life for a chance to prove that I am the best champion in our division.
RingTV.com: What are your thoughts Sergey Kovalev's comments about African Americans? Were they controversial or not in nature, due to the Russian language? In other words, what was your interpretation of what Kovalev actually said?
Shumenov: I was shocked when I heard about his racist comments that he said in reference about African Americans. There was no misinterpretation or lost in Russian-to-English translation of what he said.
He will have to live with the derogatory words that he said in print and video. A lot of my team are African Americans, and they are more than members of my team, they are family to me. They have my back and I have theirs, and I have zero respect for racist views of any kind.