Former light heavyweight titlist Beibut Shumenov looked like a new fighter Saturday in his second bout with Cuban trainer Ismael Salas, and the result was a world title in a new weight class.
Shumenov (16-2, 10 KOs) boxed from the outside and circled away from B.J. Flores' heavy counter shots, recording a unanimous decision win at the Palms Casino and Resort in Las Vegas. All three judges scored the bout 116-112 for Shumenov.
The Premier Boxing Champions main event was contested for a vacant interim cruiserweight title.
Despite being outlanded by Flores 114-104, according to CompuBox, Shumenov received the nod on the scorecards in just his second fight at 200 pounds.
"I knew B.J. is a cruiserweight, and I knew he would be a very strong guy," said Shumenov, who held the light heavyweight belt from 2010 to 2013 but moved up because of problems making weight. "It was a great fight, but people saw that I scored more points. He was more lunging and looking for a knockout. I fought a smart fight and looked for points. I did enough to win the fight."
Shumenov, a native of Kazakhstan who fights out of Las Vegas, was wobbled into the ropes late in Round 12 from a Flores right hand. Flores (31-2-1, 20 KOs) landed the harder shots throughout and was disappointed with the scorecards.
"Beibut always comes forward, he is always aggressive and a really strong fighter," Flores said. "But tonight he ran all night. It's just tough to win a fight when you go backwards the whole night, in my opinion.
"My punches were visibly hurting him, and he was just touching me. The whole fight he is just backing up. It's very tough to corral a guy that doesn't want to fight. You have to want to fight. The PBC is about guys who want to fight."
Shumenov, 31, fought in the past without a trainer, including when he was dropped late in a decision loss to Bernard Hopkins, who unified light heavyweight titles against him in 2014. But he felt much more confident on Saturday as the boxer -- as opposed to being the puncher -- under the tutelage of Salas.
"I am still in the learning process," Shumenov said. "Ismael is the best trainer in the world, so every time I go to the gym, I always learn something new. Boxing is not a gladiator match. Boxing is an art. You use your skill, you use your position, you use your angles and footwork. You don't have to go and kill or be killed."
For Flores, 36, known more in recent years for his work as a broadcaster with NBC and NBCSN, it's back to the drawing board after losing what he called the biggest fight of his career.
"I put a lot into this performance," Flores said. "I don't have a mark on my face. I got hit with a few jabs and right hands, but I'm fine. It was easier than I thought it would be, but it was more difficult because he moved around."