9:24 PM EST, December 4, 2013
LAS VEGAS — Beibut Shumenov might be the most interesting man in the world who doesn't have a TV commercial to tout that.
He is a boxer, the light-heavyweight champion of the world in two sanctioning bodies.
He is 30 and won his first pro title in just his eighth fight, a near-record pace. But Shumenov is a man in an even bigger hurry, not only to improve on his 13-1 record, but to emerge from the shadows of the sport.
Ask American boxing fans about Shumenov and the response will be the same.
He hopes his road to recognition will begin Dec. 14 in San Antonio, where he will fight on the undercard of the Adrien Broner-Marcos Maidana match and be seen on Showtime.
Real recognition will come as success prompts more of the media to learn his story. His is not your usual boxing yarn — kid grows up poor, fights his way out and parlays his anger into millions in the ring. Shumenov had childhood setbacks, but any millions he makes in the boxing ring will merely supplement those already there.
He is a son of a government accountant in Kazakhstan, which was part of the old Soviet Union. His wasn't a wealthy family, but they lived comfortably.
As a child, his biggest scare was medical, not financial. With his parents away for a couple of weeks, two aunts watching him accidentally poisoned him with bad milk. His parents returned to a child turning blue and shriveling up. They rushed him to a hospital and were told he wouldn't make it.
He did, but only after they put an IV in his skull.
He was told he would always be small and should steer clear of physically taxing things. He is 6 feet 2 and fights at 175 pounds. His one sibling, younger brother Chingas, is 6-5 and 230.
He has responded with a training routine of near fanatical workouts. The rest of his inspiration comes from seeing a film one day of a Mike Tyson fight.
"From then on," Shumenov says, "I just wanted to be a fighter."
When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, Shumenov and his family were free of Communism, but also without jobs. It got so bad they had to knock on relatives' doors to ask for food. Usually, they were turned down.
The worm turned quickly. Shumenov's parents, Amirkhan and Saule, turned their Soviet work ethic into the wonders of capitalism. Now his family, with ownership of large marketplaces and construction businesses in the city of Shymkent, is among the wealthiest in the country. Relatives who had turned his family down for food are not treated similarly.
"I still have trouble with that," Shumenov says of his parents' generosity to those relatives.
He and Chingas are lawyers. Beibut remains closely involved in the family business and talks nearly every night by phone to Chingas.
So important were he and his family connections to the national psyche of Kazakhstan that the day of his second-round match in the Athens Olympics in 2004, the country's president came to give him a pep talk. Unknown to all was that Shumenov had broken his hand in his first match and would fight with only his left hand.
He lost, thought he had let down an entire country and quit caring, even ballooning to 230 pounds. But in 2007, after winning his pro debut in North Carolina, he came to Las Vegas, mostly because that's where boxers are.
He spoke no English (he speaks five languages today), knew almost no one and decided to stay.
Now, the story really gets good.
He lives in a 9,654-square-foot house on Coast Line Drive in northwest Las Vegas. The address is strange for a city in a desert, until you realize the property is on a man-made lake with expensive boats docked out back.
Shumenov's house has a gym with equipment that took eight men to carry down the stairs — that was just one piece. There is a film room, an elevator, a huge garage with cabinets stuffed with almost every kind of boxing equipment that exists — gloves, headgear and the like.
There is also a 10-foot-by-10-foot refrigerator in the kitchen.
Shumenov starts his day at 5 a.m. by going to his hyperbaric chamber. That's in his house too. He does a full workout in his gym, then after lunch goes to another gym for running and swimming and still another for training and sparring.
He ends his day with two hours of Greco-Roman wrestling, before returning home around 8 and calling Chingas.
His soul mate, who lives with him in the Las Vegas home, manages his affairs and his idiosyncrasies and is the vice president of his promotion company, KZ Events, is a young woman with curly blond hair named Cary Redlin, who weighs about as much as one of Shumenov's hand weights. She is from, of all places, North Dakota.
Redlin is a product of the nuns of the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D. After graduation, she came to Las Vegas, much as Shumenov did. Because it was there. For a while, she worked in administration at McCarran International Airport.
A friend from North Dakota, working with Shumenov, saw that he was struggling to be both boxer and promoter and suggested he meet Redlin.
They went to lunch.
"I trusted her from that first day," he says.
He spoke no English. She spoke Fargo-ese. Somehow, it was a match made in heaven.
She is organized, tough and adept at handling the shady deal-making and shoddy bookkeeping common in the sport in which her man seeks to excel.
Together, this Kazakhstan-North Dakota team is poised to take on the boxing world, to be recognized. Are their chances good?
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