Trainer of former heavyweight contender David Tua receives second chance with talented Beibut Shumenov
The former Olympic boxer, now Las Vegas-based trainer Kevin Barry, isn’t calling Jan. 29 his “comeback” exactly.
Still, the 50-year-old trainer admits that the thought of chasing a world boxing title again has added excitement to his life.
“I’ve been involved in boxing, Muay Thai and mixed martial arts for the last few years, so I wouldn’t use the word comeback,” Barry said. “But as far as having a fighter competing at the highest level, this is the first time in awhile.
“So that situation by itself sort of makes things a little more exciting for me.”
For the last two months, Barry, who acted as trainer and manager of former heavyweight contender David Tua from 1992 to 2003, has been working closely with light heavyweight standout Beibut Shumenov in Las Vegas.
The two will get the first opportunity to track their progress Jan. 29, as Shumenov (8-1, 6 KO) is set to face Gabriel Campillo for the WBA light heavyweight championship at the Hard Rock Hotel. The championship fight is a rematch of their August fight in which Campillo took a close, majority decision.
If Shumenov is successful in claiming the title, he will become the first world champion Barry has trained in his long career.
Earlier in his career, Tua came close to giving his trainer that satisfaction, but he ultimately never claimed a world title.
“The biggest disappointment I had of Tua is that he never wore the heavyweight belt,” Barry said. “He won other belts but never a world championship. He knocked out guys that wore the belt, but he never wore it himself.”
Barry said he initially was hesitant to work with Shumenov, despite the 26-year-old’s early success as a professional.
After representing his home country of Kazakhstan in the Olympics in 2004, Shumenov turned pro in 2007 and shortly thereafter moved to Las Vegas.
He went undefeated in his first eight fights, including wins over two former world champions — Montell Griffin and Byron Mitchell.
Despite his success however, Shumenov remained unhappy with his trainer situation and eventually made a strong request to Barry, whom he met in 2007, to become his full-time man.
Even though Barry turned down the offer at first, he ended up taking the job in November when Shumenov came to him a second time.
“I was doing other things, and I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to give 100 percent of myself into chasing a boxing title again,” Barry said. “To be truthful, it was my wife that said to me, ‘Kevin, you have to do this for yourself.’
“After one week, I knew she was right. I’m thrilled I made this decision.”
It’s been more than six years since Barry last cornered the electric Tua, who fought the likes of Lennox Lewis, Hasim Rahman and John Ruiz.
The two was an uncommon duo at the time. Both fighter and trainer hailed from New Zealand, and Barry remembers there were many skeptics when Tua made the decision to begin his professional career at the age of 19.
“It was a unique story,” Barry said. “We both came from New Zealand and it had never been done before. No one thought it could be done. I was with him when he turned pro at 19 and was still washing dishes.
“A lot of people thought I was going to get him killed. Of course, we proved everyone wrong.”
Tua started his career 27-0 and built a reputation as one of the best power punchers in the world. Some of his best moments, in Barry’s opinion, included a 19-second knockout over Ruiz in 1996 and a 30-second knockout of Michael Moorer in 2002.
“The 19-second knockout of John Ruiz is forever embedded in my memory,” Barry said. “And we spent the whole camp before the Moorer fight working on a right hook, because everyone knew he had a left hook. He threw the right and knocked Moorer out cold.
“It was the greatest time. What we achieved was fantastic, and those are the things I’m excited about to be a part of again.”
What Barry is hoping to forget is the way his relationship with Tua ended — a long court battle between the two over financial matters that lasted nearly six years.
According to Barry, the bittersweet ending of that relationship was another factor in his reluctance to get involved with professional boxing again.
“It left an enormously sour taste in my mouth,” Barry said. “We had some great experiences together for 12 years and then it ended in a massive court battle that lasted six years. I lost a lot of faith in fighters because of it.”
Shumenov has replaced some of that lost faith in Barry now, as the trainer said he can see himself staying in this partnership “for a long time.”
No matter what happens later this month, it’s clear Barry is enjoying his second chance at the highest level of the sport.
“I hear from my closest friends they can see it,” Barry said. “I haven’t had this drive, this purpose or this hunger since Tua. I consider myself very lucky that here I am in my first with Beitbut, and he’s challenging for the title.
“I’m excited about this fight and I’m excited about the future.”