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Shumenov Outworks Uzelkov in Twelve

For three rounds, it was an intriguing night at the fights.  For the next nine, it was an exercise in repetitive domination, a story told by a beltholder who was trying to win and a challenger who could hardly be said to be doing the same.  In the end, 26-year old WBA Light Heavyweight titlist Beibut Shumenov (10-1, 6 KO) of Kazakhstan put lingering debates about his title win earlier this year behind him with a clear unanimous decision over 31-year old Viacheslav Uzelkov (22-1, 14 KO) of the Ukraine on Friday night outdoors at the Tachi Palace and Hotel in Lemoore, California.

Shumenov came into the contest spot on the division limit of 175 lbs., Uzelkov lighter at 172. Uzelkov, a 2001 World Amateur Championship Bronze Medalist World Amateur Championships at Heavyweight, and Shumenov, a 2004 Light Heavyweight Olympian for Kazakhstan, showed their experience right away, beginning relaxed with patient, measured jabs. Shumenov opened up first, landing a right to the body and working Uzelkov towards the ropes. Shumenov stayed the aggressor, firing right hands while Uzelkov patiently blocked. In the middle of the round, Uzelkov found his opening and exploded with a lead left hook to send Shumenov to the floor.

Referee Jon Schorle picked up the count at two as Shumenov popped right up, nodding his desire to continue as the mandatory eight played out.  Looking to get right back into the fight, Shumenov came forward with heavy rights as Uzelkov covered and looked for counters. A left hook just missed for Uzelkov seconds before the bell to end round one. Shumenov continued to find more glove than flesh with the right upstairs early in the second but was landing the straight right to the body as Uzelkov stuck with a high, tight guard.  A lead left was fired at the halfway mark again by Uzelkov, glancing off the side of Shumenov’s head, but it was the titlist making the fight with eye catching flurries. Both men landed wild blows in a closing exchange.

Using his feet and guard to deflect Shumenov’s offense, Uzelkov was able to land when he let his hands go early in the third but those moments were sparse.  A right over the top landed clean for Uzelkov at the halfway mark but his defensive approach did nothing to slow Shumenov and with only seconds remaining a right hand caught Uzelkov off balance and dropped him near the ropes.  Uzelkov hopped up and motioned that he’d slipped but Schorle ruled a knockdown and Uzelkov headed to the corner seeing his early scoring advantage erased.

The deliberate pace of the action in round four bordered on uneventful, but it was again Shumenov working harder and banking points with rights to the body.  Despite many blocked shots, Shumenov’s blows were sending Uzelkov backwards.  Uzelkov pressed more in the fifth but punches were rationed and the challenger only marginally opened up in the final thirty seconds. A small cut suffered by Shumenov over his right eye at the end of the fifth showed little affect on his approach as Shumenov landed a right immediately in the sixth and continued his workmanlike effort through the seventh as Uzelkov’s interest in competing, in attempting to win, appeared to be evaporating in the summer heat. Uzelkov landed a right early in the eighth and then mocked Shumenov with a shimmy of the shoulders.  Shumenov moved him towards the ropes and teed off with a right uppercut that ripped Uzelkov’s head towards the lights.

By the end of the ninth a small abrasion was visible beneath the left eye of Uzelkov, perhaps from the volume of times his ever guarding gloves were pushed into his face by Shumenov’s rights.  Doing virtually nothing to win through the tenth, Uzelkov walked forward when the titlist wasn’t throwing, mixing in token offense in a few short spurts.

Exploding to start the championship rounds, a Shumenov right startled the sleepwalking Uzelkov and forced him to the corner where Shumenov opened up with both hands.  The burst lasted only a moment, Shumenov comfortable returning to center ring and boxing his way to winning yet another round.  Closing the show in the twelfth, Shumenov rocketed some more harsh rights but Uzelkov finished on his feet and Shumenov finished with his first title defense clearly in hand.

The scores of 117-109 and 118-108 twice were academic for Shumenov who, only eleven fights into his career, is evolving with each outing.  His title win over Gabriel Campillo earlier this year was highly debated after losing the first fight to Campillo in the summer of 2009.  However, what is impressive is that Shumenov has a Campillo on his record twice already along with an Uzelkov and former champions Byron Mitchell and Montell Griffin.  While aged, those veterans were ahead of the learning curve most embrace so early on.

How good Shumenov ultimately becomes remains to be seen but he’s certainly not shying away from challenges which makes him worth watching again as he continues.