Light heavyweight titlist Beibut Shumenov had just polished off previously unbeaten Tamas Kovacs in the third round to retain his belt for the fifth time on Dec. 14 at the Alamodome in San Antonio when fellow titleholder Bernard Hopkins joined him in the ring during his Showtime post-fight interview.
Shumenov said he hoped to fight Hopkins to unify their 175-pound belts and Hopkins said the same thing, both showing respect for each other.
With the other top light heavyweights -- namely champion Adonis Stevenson and titlist Sergey Kovalev on HBO -- unavailable to make fights with because of the network and promotional politics of boxing, Hopkins-Shumenov makes the most sense for both fighters while Stevenson and Kovalev are on their own path to fight each other.
Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 KOs), a partner in Golden Boy Promotions, even said a week earlier that one of the key reasons the company signed Shumenov (14-1, 9 KOs) before the Dec 14 fight was so Hopkins -- who turns 49 on Jan. 15 -- would have a unification fight that could easily be made.
Shumenov, 30, a 2004 Olympian from Kazakhstan now living in Las Vegas, is pressing hard for the fight with Hopkins to be made.
“My goal has always been to unify and Golden Boy and Showtime are going to give me that opportunity,” Shumenov said. “We tried to make a couple of unifications and different fights that for one reason or another fell through. We tried to made unification fights with [Nathan] Cleverly and [Chad] Dawson when they held belts, but they weren't interested in fighting me. I tried to unify with a scheduled fight against [then-titleholder Juergen] Braehmer but he ran out of town three days before our fight.”
After Braehmer split town, Shumenov fought late replacement former middleweight titlist William Joppy instead and easily disposed of him.
Hopkins, still fighting at a high level and coming off a rousing decision win against mandatory challenger Karo Murat on Oct. 26, should pose a far more difficult test for Shumenov than any opponent he has previously faced.
“Bernard Hopkins is a legendary fighter and it would be an honor to fight him,” Shumenov said. “He said he wants to fight me, I want to fight him. If I had my choice of unifying against any of the other world champions in the 175-pound division, I would pick Bernard Hopkins because he's headed to the Hall of Fame. Hopkins already proved that age isn't an issue and maybe he isn't human. The other two world champions, Stevenson and Kovalev, only became world champions this year and they haven't beaten opponents at their peaks like Hopkins has so many times. Stevenson beat Dawson after [Andre] Ward destroyed him and [Tavoris] Cloud wasn't the same after Hopkins fought him. Kovalev won his title from Cleverly, who I had been trying to fight for a few years because he had been built up and had never fought a top guy.”
Hopkins-Shumenov likely will be made and take place in the spring. Showtime Sports boss Stephen Espinoza told ESPN.com on Thursday that it is a fight he wants to get done.
“It’s a fight we are interested in,” he said. “That’s a fight that (Golden Boy chief executive) Richard [Schaefer] and I will work on after the holidays.”