The Last B-Hop Waltz? / Shumenov vs. Hopkins
An interesting fight with the potential to be a fight to remember. Each fighter with his own version of destiny and legacy…
Why Men Fight
“The trials and tribulations of a fighter is identifiable to people in everyday life, struggling to get by…facing fear of the unknown…fighting is in our DNA…boxing is absolutely indigenous to what we are.”—Sylvester Stallone
“Fighting is as much a part of life as death is, because the fight begins from the moment the person is taken from the womb and lasts until he is put into the grave. When a newly born baby enters the world, he fights for his first breath, am I right? OK. And then before he’s put into the ground he’s fighting for that last breath, am I right? OK, well that’s it. A man fights all his life to live happily, or no matter how he chooses to live he fights for his substance on earth, he fights for the better things in life. He fights physically, you know, because people do something to him that he doesn’t think is right. This is why I say fighting is as much as living or death is.”—Archie Moore
They come from different cultural backgrounds, this Kazakhstani Champion Beibut Shumenov, and this Philly fighter Champion Bernard Hopkins. On April 19th their backgrounds will merge, gladiatorial, in one shared magnificent push to glory; two different men from two different parts of the world, with two divergent personalities, meeting, on a small space of canvas, fighting, as they have since the day they were born to satisfy some internal, innate command somewhere in the depths of their psyche. “It’s Showtime!”
The Champion Shumenov resides in a 9,654 square foot home on Coast Line Drive in Vegas. His house has a film room, elevator, full gym and a 10 x 10 foot fridge in the kitchen. His days start at 5 am and those days are full including, running, swimming, wrestling, and boxing. The multi-lingual lawyer/gladiator has come a long way from his near death experience as a child when he was accidentally poisoned with bad milk. His family was so poor at one point that they had to knock on relatives’ doors asking for food.
The Champion Shumenov called in to my office back in January to say hello and to discuss the Hopkins fight. Given his current financial status, good health, mentally and physically, I couldn’t help but ask, “Why fight?” Shumenov responded, “It’s my passion, it’s my passion, my destiny to be the best, to be the very best that I can.” In response I asked the Champion, “Yes it is your passion but why is it your passion?” In response what Shumenov stated, in short form, very much resembles Archie Moore’s comments about fighting being a part of life and death and coincides with Shumenov’s early face-to-face look at death. His will to survive and succeed paints a background, which like many, seems born of memory and thought, so far away in years past but so close in its potential to come back and grab one’s life in its evil ways of death, poverty and despair. Objects in rearview mirrors always look closer than they are!
Deep inside all of us I suspect that fear of losing what we have, failing to succeed forward from where we are, is with us. If you stay on this planet long enough, one way or another, death, loss, fear, the passion of success, or despair of losing, or embarrassing oneself in loss, comes along for the ride.
Much has been said of the Champion Hopkins’ background, the Philadelphia mean streets, the jail time, and in a different life aspect, but possibly the same kernel of never going back, Hopkins has fought on over an extended period of time that is beyond reason.
The Last B-Hop Waltz?
The Champion Hopkins makes much of the mental aspect of boxing and how his opponents shall succumb in that regard. He is at an age—in fact was at an age more than fifteen years ago—when the proverbial boxing wheels fall off in a hurry. The truth of the matter is that when one dissects Hopkins, beyond the mental aspect and the boxing hyperbole that he likes to resonate at press conferences, he has not knocked out an opponent in a very long time, that being Oscar De La Hoya. The further truth of the Hopkins waltz is that the fighters that have beaten the “Executioner,” now known as “The Alien,” have been fighters who have consistently applied high volume punching round after round. Hopkins likes to take that step to the right and set his own pace. For those that have followed his waltz and stepped to their left, Hopkins’ right, inwards, it is usually brings boxing tick-tac-toe of a long night.
Make no mistake as to where the Champion Shumenov hopes to take Hopkins, mentally and physically, on April 19th. Insofar as the legendary light-heavyweight Champion Archie Moore spoke of living to death and death to living, Shumenov has been fighting all his life and his fighting makes him live happily. In another life, given his training and background, the Champion Shumenov would have made an “A” cast UFC champion, a top level martial artist, and certainly from all reports, a top level Olympic style wrestler. He is a tremendous athlete and extraordinarily strong at his weight category.
Dirty, Not Little, No Secret!
The Champion Hopkins of course will apply his usual tricks of the trade, and a most favorite, drilling an opponent’s thigh on the opposite side of the referee. While Shumenov is one of the classier gentlemen one would meet in the lovely world of boxing, he must understand that one to the thigh should equal two in return. My neighbor down the road, now retired former number one rated super-middleweight, Sydney Vanderpool, certainly found out Hopkins’ tricks of trade and the fact that without a response in kind nothing but more of the same is the name of the game.
This past press conference week, Shumenov has made much of the fact that he will not respond to any Hopkins fouls by returning a foul favor. He would do well to keep in mind Lomachenko’s similar thought versus Salido recently. The Champion Shumenov likes to maintain good sportsmanship, and so we shall see or not see as he plays his own mind games with Hopkins, but as some guy named Leviticus said, way back biblical, “and a man who inflicts an injury upon his fellow man just as he did, shall be done to him fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Just as he inflicted an injury upon a person, so shall it be inflicted upon him.” I wonder if they spoke of good sportsmanship back in the biblical day?
My wife and I have had the pleasure of enjoying Champion Shumenov’s company over dinner along with his lovely Vice-President of Operations. I recall walking from Sinatra’s, at Wynn Resort, with my wife afterwards when she commented that Champion Shumenov, although an exceptionally polite and classy individual, had a quiet but steady resolve to his eyes that bespoke of some other level. It was a complement to be read in many ways! Make no mistake of what that level will be, portent of pugilism, for when that bell rings rest assured Beibut Shumenov will in one form or another of scientific gladiator fashion, attempt to tear Bernard Hopkins’ head off with a left or right hand. While Hopkins’ mental aspect quotations of psychology abound the simple fact is if you put Bernard Hopkins in a dark alley with Beibut Shumenov, all Philadelphia fighter aside, Bernard Hopkins would get very badly hurt. But this is the “Sweet Science” named for much the scientific measure of belting someone without getting belted back. Hopkins isn’t going to get into Shumenov’s head in regards to the physical danger of the sport. Whatever Shumenov does by way of response to Hopkins’ antics, up to that first bell, will be premeditated and calculated by response.
The Upside-Down World
There’s a series of photographs a friend gave to me. One Mr. 50 Cent and Jean Pascal had invited the Champion Shumenov down to a new gym in Las Vegas. Mr. Pascal, I am told, did some slight indiscretion of manners towards Shumenov. No big deal! Unfortunately Pascal then decided, like a child on a playground, to measure up Champion Shumenov’s strength by a slight grab hold grappling measure. The sizeable and muscular Pascal found himself instantaneously twisted, cradled like a new born, and turned upside down. He is very lucky Shumenov was in a good mood and did not drop him on his head. Hopkins would be well advised to keep this as a mental note as he goes through his usual pre-fight psychological manipulations.
This past week Champion Hopkins, in further discussion of psychological warfare playing a pre-fight importance, commented how during a press conference before his fight with Felix Trinidad he pinched the Puerto Rican, grabbing three inches of skin and stated, “He (Trinidad) just let me do it!” Hopkins already has a sizeable psychological disadvantage in that department as he surely knows that any type of behavior of that kind placed upon Beibut Shumenov will end up as another embarrassing Pascal upside down like photo shoot! One could easily envision the Shumenov team enthusiastically waiting for that three-inch grab of skin in some Dirty Harry thought of “go ahead make my day.”
Hopkins has further psychological issues in another context of one of his favorite projections, in portraying his aura of strength and mental toughness, that “No one is more disciplined.” Hopkins has stated, “Every fighter is hungry when he’s poor. The great ones stay hungry when they’re rich.” The Champion Shumenov is a very wealthy man and you can take it as a given, in speaking to those that know him closely, that his discipline and conditioning far exceeds Hopkins’. While Hopkins maintains a fairly busy travel schedule with respect to Golden Boy, Shumenov’s daily ritual rarely changes.
While much has been made of Hopkins seeming ability to make time stand still the fact is that time had Bernard Hopkins, 36 years of age, back in 2001 when he fought Trinidad. While Hopkins is, as Antonio Tarver would describe him, “An old slick con artist,” the further fact is that when high volume fighters put pressure on Hopkins he found ways to delay fighting or exiting. As Tarver commented, in respect to the first Dawson meeting, “He should have attempted to fight. He never attempted because his mind was already made up. He made the decision to lay on the canvas and cop-out to whatever shoulder injury he claims he had. I don’t know how Bernard can live with himself…” As Dawson himself further commented, “A real champion gets up off a canvas and tries to fight… What he (Hopkins) did to me in that fight; that was going to be my night and he took it away from me by play-acting and crying. I lost all respect for him that fight. I don’t like him, and I think he’s a phony.” What will Hopkins reaction be if Shumenov, a bigger, stronger, more well conditioned fighter, with as equal and probably likely greater mental attitude, applies rough constant physical pressure?
Will an unnaturally strong man, whose passion was born from the depths of looking death in the eye, and whose endless energy to train everyday at unheard of levels, overcome year upon year skill set of the aged but self-preached ageless Champion Hopkins? As our Fearless Editor Robert Ecksel once commented, “Hopkins is monomaniacal. He’s the sun around which all planets revolve.” “I collected my own legacy” states Hopkins. In fact he has two large rooms filled with his own memorabilia that he has collected through the years.
In Shumenov, Hopkins is finding his polar opposite and a fighter whose mental makeup is so steady, so measured, and so disciplined that it is hard to imagine that Hopkins unending talk of being the ageless legend will even remotely get into Shumenov’s head. The more interesting question will be settled on a piece of canvas, not much bigger than Shumenov’s kitchen, and if Shumenov, in that kitchen, gets into Hopkins proverbial grill and does not allow the Philly fighter to exercise his usual boxing want of delay, foul filled frustrating activity, and head down jumping counterpunching, then it will be a long night for a longstanding champion in Hopkins.
That look in Shumenov’s eye that my lovely wife commented on will tell you that the Kazakhstani will not go quietly into the night. He’s fighting an older man and numbers do not lie. Hopkins does not, for many years, knock people out. The likes of Taylor, Calzaghe, and recently Chad Dawson, show that a high volume puncher, trusting in his stamina, puts Hopkins in a very uncomfortable spot. While the Champion Shumenov prides himself on how rapidly, over a very short period of time, he has learned the skills of the Sweet Science one can’t help but, in historical reflection, think of the likes of Marvin Hagler wrongfully attempting to box Sugar Ray Leonard and, more recently, Canelo attempting to stand outside and box Floyd Mayweather Jr. Hopkins’ age is not a lie but Hopkins will, in artistic form, apply his own lie in the ring by way of stepping off to the right, clutching, grabbing, fouling, and under extreme pressure taking a knee if need be. He is ever the punching opportunist looking for openings and short finishing flurries.
An interesting fight with the potential to be a fight to remember. Each fighter with his own version of destiny and legacy.
It’s Showtime! Show me time!
Michael J. Schmidt is a lawyer at Schmidt Law Office Professional Corporation and minority Shareholder/Director at Jensen Strauss Agency Limitée, a multi-level marketing agency. Mr. Schmidt has, both as a lawyer and as a representative of Jensen Strauss Agency Limitée, represented professional boxing champions, world class athletes in various sports disciplines, and as well literary and film/movie clients.