This past weekend was one of opportunity for a couple of Muslim boxers, who in respective title bouts provided the classic contrast of incredible highs and humbling lows in the fight game.
Saturday night in Las Vegas, former light heavyweight champion Beibut Shumenov stepped into the ring for the second time since moving up to cruiserweight. And by facing B.J. Flores for the WBA’s interim cruiserweight title, Shumenov was in his first title fight since an April 2014 loss to Bernard Hopkins.
Shumenov, a 31-year-old Muslim from Kazakhstan, walked out with a unanimous decision victory over Flores, who despite his 31-2-1 (20 KOs) record is more famous for his work as a boxing TV analyst than for his work as a boxer. Shumenov improved to 16-2 (10 KOs), with all three judges scoring the bout 116-112 in his favor.
Winning the WBA interim title also earns Shumenov a shot at the WBA’s official cruiserweight champion, Russia’s Denis Lebedev (27-1, 1 NC, 20 KOs). I have to admit, I cannot figure out exactly why the WBA has an interim title when its full-time champ is not injured or under any kind of suspension, but that’s just something we’ll have to chalk up to the often confusing business of boxing.
Also on Saturday in Vegas, three light-heavyweight world title belts were on the line (WBA, IBF, WBO) when France’s Nadjib Mohammedi challenged Russian superstar Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev.
Mohammedi, a 30-year-old Muslim of Algerian descent, came into the fight on a hot streak having knocked out his last four opponents. That included a 7th-round stoppage of Anatoliy Dudchenko in June 2014 that made him the mandatory No. 1 contender for the IBF crown, which Hopkins held at the time but lost to Kovalev in a lopsided decision in November 2014.
No one outside of the Mohammedi camp really expected the confident challenger to upset Kovalev, and the masses were right: Kovalev knocked Mohammedi out with an explosive right-left combo in the third round. The loss dropped Mohammedi’s pro record to 37-4 (22 KOs), while Kovalev improved to 28-0-1 (25 KOs).