Bernard Hopkins continues his myth-making ways when he faces Beibut Shumenov, a man with only 15 pro fights, at the DC Armory in Washington, D.C. on Saturday night in the main event of a Golden Boy Promotions/Showtime Pawn Shop special.
Except for the fact that Hopkins shows up most contemporary fighters—the guys who cross their feet, hang their chins out like lanterns on a peg, and wind up punches the way Buster Keaton used to—every time he answers the opening bell, not much interesting happens when he fights. But saying that would rile up the blogoscenti. Or, even less interestingly, a cog of the Power Structure itself. Say, a Showtime PR rep with a limited Twitter imagination.
Does it matter that Hopkins, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is shooting for records against the likes of Shumenov? With so many fanboys and publicists taking up slots at press row, it all seems so obvious. Yes! Hopkins could share the ring with a cardboard cutout of Captain Underpants and still be lauded for extending his legacy, especially when a “unification” takes place. The Smart Set will tell you again and again that belts do not matter…unless one of its favorites is involved, and then the multicolored pom poms come out. (Actually, the best thing about this fight is that it may lead to a showdown with Adonis Stevenson. That, in turn, will likely put an end to the pathetic link-bait articles about Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. So, something good may come out of this light heavyweight nonsense, after all.)
Boxing lacks an Elias Sports Bureau for statistics—boxing lacks a lot of things, of course—but Shumenov must certainly possess some kind of record by virtue of the following bizarre fact: more than 75 per cent of his fights have been waged for a title. Even today, when you can probably win a belt via an App, that stat is dizzying. Despite his, uhh, championship pedigree, however, Shumenov, 14-1 (9), remains a rudimentary pro. All fighters deserve respect, the least among them as much as the elite, but Shumenov is a man with two important distinctions: a title and a telephone.
In his only starts against topnotch opposition, Shumenov was twice kicked around like a hackeysack by Gabriel Campillo, but he came away from two poor showings with a split. These days, Shumenov, 30, is probably best known for training himself. Not only is Shumenov self-trained, but until he signed with Golden Boy Promotions, he was largely self-promoted as well. In 2011 he sued Goossen-Tutor to get out a promotional contract. Can you blame him? Goossen had Shumenov fighting in a parking lot in Lemoore, California.
Shumenov popped up once on TCS around this time:
All fighters deserve respect, but watching elemental Beibut Shumenov and inept Viacheslav Uzelkov tangle in a near-empty parking lot in Lemoore, California, left The Cruelest Sport searching for re-runs of “River Monsters.” Uzelkov, 22-1, entered the ring as the favorite last night simply because Shumenov is a limited talent, to put it mildly. Who could have imagined that Uzelkov would actually beat Shumenov, hands down, in the “limited” department? Incredibly, Uzelkov does not even know what foot to lead with. Half the time, he would step forward with his back foot first and leave it parallel with his left, the gait of a man who might have to walk the line on a roadside for a highway patrolman. The fighters traded knockdowns, which will make this a FOTY candidate for some, but the action was desultory at best and an indictment of how thin many weight classes are these days.
Since giving Goossen the boot, Shumenov, Las Vegas via Kazakhstan, has fought twice, and he enters his bout with the cagey Hopkins with only three rounds under his belt in almost two years. Naturally, these facts are considered attributes by Showtime and GBP. But the fact remains that Shumenov is a far better fighter than Karo Murat, who was toiling in an eight-rounder just prior to meeting Hopkins. What does that say about Murat? Shumenov moves like he has concrete blocks on his feet, extends his left amateurishly as if to invite overhand rights, drops his guard when on the attack, and has no inside game whatsoever. But he does work behind his jab and appears to be the sturdy type. Every once in a while, he will also throw an uppercut from out of nowhere with all the design acumen of the notorious Cannonball Loop in Action Park.
As usual, the same caveats that apply to every Hopkins fight apply here. At 49, he can find himself suddenly unable to perform well enough to beat even second-tier fighters like Shumenov. No matter how hard managers, promoters, and even network executives work to ensure certain safety standards for their commodities, the ring remains a hazardous place where accidents can occur at any moment. It will take a major catastrophe for Shumenov to beat Hopkins, but you will no doubt find a few cyber-soothsayers looking to achieve the Nostradmus Effect: back the underdog as often as possible and crow whenever the long odds are bucked. Of course, that makes you wrong 85 per cent of the time, but why quibble? By pretending to have an oracular knowledge far beyond the ken of mere mortals, some of these unchecked geniuses have managed to fool a lot of the people a lot of the time—just like networks and promoters.
As for Hopkins, 54-6-2 (32) with two no-contests, he sealed his status as a great way before he started his Seniors Tour. As long ago as the late 90s he was already a legitimate throwback, a master craftsman whose technique was often overshadowed by poor sportsmanship, dirty tactics, and more mauling than you can find among a litter of angry piglets.
It is a pleasure to remember the boxing lesson he gave to Felix Trinidad, or the brutal KO he scored against undefeated Joe Lipsey in a fight aired on ABC, or his supernatural performance against a dangerous Antoine Echols in 1999, when Hopkins turned the destructive energy of his opponent to his own advantage. But no one confuses the geriatric Mick Jagger of today, warbling on about being born in a crossfire hurricane, with the charismatic antihero who tore his shirt off at a performance to reveal a pentagram painted on his flesh. Jean-Luc Godard, Kenneth Anger, Robert Frank, and David and Albert Maysles would hardly be interested in the Stones of the last 20 years.
In his time, Hopkins was something special to see. Is that really the case now? If it seems uncertain to you, just take your pick, and ask some of the mythmakers out there.
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