On 21 August, BoxNation will televise a twelve-round mandatory-challenger elimination bout between 26-year-old Errol Spence Jr and Leonard Bundu from Coney Island in New York. The winner will be in line to face IBF welterweight king Kell Brook, contingent on Brook losing to Gennady Golovkin at 160-pounds on 10 September. Should Brook beat Golovkin, the winner of Spence-Bundu would fight the highest-rated available opponent for the IBF 147-pound crown.
Bundu, age 41, was born in Sierra Leone and now lives in Italy. He has a 33-1 record against ordinary opposition and just 12 knockouts. The one time he stepped up to the world-class level - against Keith Thurman on 13 December 2014 – he lost every round on each judge’s scorecard.
Spence (20-0, 17 KOs) is the brighest prospect on Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions roster. His most recent outing was a five-round obliteration of Chris Algieri (who’d gone the distance against Amir Khan, Manny Pacquiao, and Ruslan Provodnikov)
Spence is a 50-to-1 favourite.
When a fighter who has the potential to be great is young, fans watch him fight, not so much to find out who will win but to see the performance. We don’t know how Spence will respond when he’s in the ring with someone who can punch and forces him to walk through fire. But for that moment to come, the opponent has to be good enough to test Errol in ways that he hasn’t been tested so far.
Spence has speed, ring savvy, and power. Fighting from a southpaw stance gives him an added edge. He’s not on many pound-for-pound lists yet. But he should be. And he will be.
Enjoy the performance. The big issue here is whether Spence can succeed where Keith Thurman failed and knock Bundu out. The guess here is that he will.
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Writer Tom Gerbasi has a nice ear for quotes. And he put it to good use in recounting a recent sitdown with George Foreman. Among the thoughts that Big George voiced were:
* “Boxing is an easy sport to get into, probably the easiest of all. But it’s the hardest one to get out of. The person most responsible for overseeing his welfare is the fighter himself And I had never thought about that in my life, how I really wanted to leave. Most people aren’t given that kind of advice. And we’re failures, all of us, because we can’t see that we want to get out the way we came in, feeling good about ourselves.”
* [on Sonny Liston as his role model]: “He’d been heavyweight champion of the world. I’d see that title belt sitting there in his luxurious home and the way he treated people. I said I guess that’s the way you ought to be when you’re champion. And I started being the same way. As a matter of fact, I think I became worse. I picked up a lot of bad habits because I didn’t know they were bad habits. I thought they were just traits of being champion of the world.”
* [on Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, and too many of the other men he fought dying in recent years]: “I never did visualise a world without them. And when they started passing, it hurt. It’s like a part of me died.
It’s also worth mentioning something that Foreman said to me in 2014 after undergoing a knee replacement: “I’m happy with my life. The only thing I’d change today is, I would have done my roadwork on grass, not concrete.”
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Craig Hamilton, one of boxing’s foremost memorabilia dealers, estimates that he has close to ten thousand photographs. His favourite dates to 29 August 1885 and is the only known photo of John L. Sullivan in action in one of his fights.
In the photo, Sullivan, who is clearly out of shape, can be seen standing over Dominick McCaffery, who he knocked down several times. The bout was originally scheduled for six rounds but lasted seven, after which the referee declared Sullivan the winner by decision. In a harbinger of things to come, both combatants wore gloves.
The photo is known in the trade as an original first-generation image. Hamilton didn’t know it existed until 2014 when he acquired it from a collector. He estimates that, because of its historical significance and rarity, it’s worth between $3,000 and $4,000.
“Nothing preserves a sport more vividly than visual images,” Hamilton says. “Maybe someday we’ll find more photos of John L. Sullivan in action. But for now, this is the only one that’s known to have survived.”
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Boxing and hype go hand in hand. So it’s no surprise that, after Deontay Wilder broke his right hand in a 16 July victory over Chris Arreola, the hype machine went into overdrive.
“Deontay hits too hard to be a human being,” Wilder’s manager-trainer, Jay Deas, proclaimed. “He hits too hard for his bone structure.”
Is that right?
Consider the case of Paulie Malignaggi.
“Broken hands?” Malignaggi says when the subject is raised. “I lost count because I went into some fights when the hand was broken but I wanted to rack up wins and I needed money. I also suffered a hairline fracture at the base of my thumb during the Pablo Cesar Cano fight that I didn't have surgery for. In total, I had four surgeries to my right hand.”
Was that damage caused because Paulie “hits too hard to be a human being?”
Over the course of fifteen years, Malignaggi has registered seven knockouts in 43 fights. More to the point; after three relatively easy victories at the start of his career, Paulie has scored four knockouts in his last forty fights.
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Pitch Publishing is carving out a niche for itself in the world of boxing. It’s latest offering is the autobiography of Jamie Moore (written with Paul Zanon).
“Mooresy” offers a recounting of Moore’s frequent interaction with the police when he was young, his ring career, and the horror of being shot multiple times by a would-be assassin in 2014. There’s also a bit of homespun logic in Moore’s feelings on the turn in his life that came sixteen days after a 2004 knockout loss to Ossie Duran: “If you are ever looking for a distraction to take your mind off a boxing loss, try getting married.”
But the most interesting insight in “Mooresy” comes from novelist Andrew Vachss, who Moore quotes as saying, “Fighting means you could lose. Bullying means you can’t. A bully wants to beat somebody. He doesn’t want to fight somebody.”