by Cliff Rold
It took two rounds longer, but 39-year old IBF Jr. Middleweight titlist Cornelius Bundrage (32-4, 19 KO) repeated the result of their first encounter, stopping 34-year old Cory Spinks (39-6, 11 KO) of St. Louis, Missouri, with three knockdowns in the seventh round on Saturday night at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California. Bundrage also scored a knockdown in the first.
Bundrage came in at 153 ½, Spinks at 153 ¾, both just a hair below the division limit of 154 lbs. The referee was Ray Corona.
Spinks was pacing back and forth while Bundrage bounced in the corner as they awaited the opening bell. When the “clang” sounded, it was Spinks sticking the southpaw right jab to try and establish a rhythm, Bundrage waiting for spots to rush. He found his first and landed a hard right. At the halfway mark, Bundrage again found flesh with a hard shot to the belly that ended with him draped over the back of Spinks. Spinks stood up and held Bundrage aloft for a moment, resisting the urge to slam his man down.
He might have been better off doing so. Inside the final minute, Bundrage landed a crushing right to send Spinks to the floor near a corner. Clearly hurt, Spinks rose and survived the round, absorbing another right Bundrage landed from around his back when the two were tangled near the ropes.
Bundrage landed a hard left hook early in the second and Spinks held on while Bundrage fired with the free hand. Corona was forced to separate them and Spinks made him keep doing it for a while. Finding his legs, Spinks stayed close, started to find a jab, and stunned Bundrage with a body shot. Fighting like he’d found something, Spinks opened up to the body down the stretch and evened the fight in terms of round one after a tough first. Spinks went to the corner with a swelling right eye.
Spinks ate two lefts to start the third but took them well. Staying with what worked in the second, Spinks jabbed to the body and snuck in a hard right and left upstairs before the round was half gone. Spinks took a right and answered with a left and right to the body. Bundrage scored with three awkward rights in the closing seconds.
A Spinks combination early in the fourth ended with Bundrage on the floor but Corona correctly ruled a slip. A ruled accidental headbutt opened a cut over the right eye of Bundrage and Spinks landed a quick, clean lead right. Spinks was stunned by a pair of bombs coming out of a clinch but didn’t fall, nor did he when another right landed down the pipe shortly after.
Copious clinching, a problem through the first four rounds, overwhelmed an underwhelming fifth. What landed of note seemed to favor Bundrage. The action didn’t get much better in the sixth but Spinks could hold on only so long.
A massive right hand sent Spinks throttling to the canvas early in the seventh and, while he beat the count, Spinks was badly hurt. Bundrage jumped right on him, chasing Spinks across the ring with power shots, and it wasn’t long before Spinks was on the floor again. Spinks again nodded to go on and did everything he could to stay alive in the fight. Ever courageous, a mark of Spinks throughout his career, he weathered blows all over, including below the belt, and even landed a final prayer of a right. It did no good, Bundrage finishing him with a wild right as Spinks scuffled backwards.
Corona made the closing call at 2:32 of round seven.
Bundrage first came to wide public attention as a competitor on the second season of the defunct reality program “The Contender.” Plagued by inactivity since winning his belt, he makes only the second defense of the diadem he won from Spinks in August 2010.
Interviewed after the fight in the ring, Bundrage made clear he wants to change that, calling for WBC titlist Saul Alvarez (40-0-1, 29 KO). “The black “Rocky” versus Canelo. Let’s get it on…We want Canelo. We want Canelo. I think that would be a good fight. I ain’t going nowhere. You see how I fight. I fight. I don’t really even think about doing no jabbing. No, I fight. He a fighter. I’m a fighter. Let’s fight.”
The Alvarez sweepstakes for September 15 is on, Alvarez’s dance card open after Paul Williams was tragically injured in a motorcycle accident and Victor Ortiz was upset by Josesito Lopez one week ago. Bundrage did what he could to make his case for the slot.
Spinks was gracious in defeat and made no excuses in the post-fight interview. “My stuff just wasn’t coming off like I trained it to be.” Asked about his future, Spinks said, “I’m not gonna’ hold my career off of that. I know I’m better than that.” At one time, Spinks certainly was. A former Undisputed Welterweight Champion and two-time Jr. Middleweight titlist, Spinks legs
Prior to the main event, viewers were treated to a look at one of the game’s brightest prospects.
24-year old 2008 U.S. Olympian Gary Russell Jr. (20-0, 12 KO), 126 ½, continued his early assault on the Featherweight division with a blistering third round stoppage of 22-year old Christopher Perez (23-3, 14 KO), of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico. Russell came into the bout rated #12 by the IBF and #8 by the WBO at 126 lbs.
The referee was Pat Russell.
The dramatic speed advantage was evident immediately for the southpaw Russell, rapid-fire lead rights and straight lefts landing regularly through the opening frame. Perez managed a well-timed right counter late in the first and didn’t seem fazed by the power of Russell.
Perez was well fazed in the second, a right hand from Russell finishing a stiff combination and depositing Perez on the seat of his trunks. Perez rose, rocked, but willing to go on and able to withstand some follow-up shots to finish the frame.
In the third, Perez found out about the power of Russell’s left, sent through the ropes for the second knockdown of the bout. Perez again rose but didn’t stay afoot long, Russell’s combinations sending him to the floor again, a minute not yet passed in the round. Perez was warned another knockdown would be his end and he couldn’t avoid it long. Just inside the halfway mark of the round, Russell finished the night with a right hook and left hand, Perez dropped to a knee and a career-first stoppage defeat at 1:41 of round three.
Russell advances and appears ready for more serious competition. The former Olympian missed a chance at Gold when he failed to make weight at the Games but looks like a solid favorite for Gold in the professional ranks sooner than later.
The televised card opened with a look at the man who might end up the best 154 lb. fighter in the world when his chance arrives.
29-year old Cuban Jr. Middleweight Erislandy Lara (17-1-1, 11 KO), 154 ½, of Miami, Florida, won a lopsided unanimous ten-round decision over a game but outclassed 33-year old Freddy Hernandez (30-3, 20 KO), 154 ¼, of Mexico City, Mexico. Lara came into the bout rated #3 by the WBC, #5 by the WBA and IBF, and #10 by the WBO and did his job keeping himself in line for future title opportunities.
The southpaw Lara opened an early lead with exact right jabs, lead hooks, and stiff lefts. Hernandez, to his credit, absorbed the blows and played the role of aggressor. Hernandez struggled to land upstairs but had success to the body in the first three rounds.
Lara landed some big lefts in the fourth but Hernandez continued to stay on top of him. Lara increased his efforts to the body in the fifth in hopes of slowing the pace of the action, to no avail. Forced to fire, Lara did and Hernandez ended the round with a cut over the left eye.
Matters got ugly in the sixth in ways both fair and foul. With surgical precision, Lara was blasting away at Hernandez and drew deep crimson from his existing cut only to throw a double hand slap/headbutt in the final minute to add insult to injury. Rightly angered, Hernandez came forward with fire and a little trash talk to bring the crowd to life.
Round seven began with another butt, this one appearing accidental, but Lara was deducted the point he probably should have been in the sixth. A second cut, over the right eye, was opened on Hernandez. Hernandez was eventually examined for the cuts but allowed to continue.
Hernandez was given a hard look in the corner before the eighth but no stoppage was called. The bout stayed much has it had been in the final three rounds, Lara landing harder and better, Hernandez trying hard and not going anywhere. The final scores were academic, though not without one surprise, at 99-90, 98-91, and an oddly close 95-94.
Hernandez came into the bout off his worst loss, a first round stop versus former Welterweight titlist Andre Berto, and his best win, a ten-round decision over former Welterweight titlist Luis Collazo. Lara was making his second start since suffering his lone defeat, a highly controversial decision versus Paul Williams in July 2011 resulting in all three judges being indefinitely suspended by the New Jersey State Athletic Commission.
Lara, like Bundrage, would love a crack at the Canelo sweepstakes. If both miss the call, they may find each other waiting as the next best option.
The card was broadcast in the U.S. by Showtime as part of a special Saturday edition of their “ShoBox” series, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions.
Cliff Rold is a Managing Editor at BoxingScene, and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]