By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Hank Lundy knows a little something about career reconstruction.
The rugged South Philadelphian was unbeaten (18-0-1) through his first three years as a pro – including a defeat of current WBA lightweight champion Richard Abril – before having to recover from an 11th-round TKO loss to John Molina that came while he led comfortably on all scorecards.
Then, after four more wins put him back on the 135-pound map – including a sixth-round stoppage that prompted the retirement of former WBC title-holder David Diaz – it was back to the drawing board when consecutive narrow judging verdicts went to foes Ray Beltran (MD 10) and Viktor Postol (UD 12).
So when Adrien Broner inquired about sparring work as the former three-division champ began his own post-Marcos Maidana crawl back to the spotlight, Lundy knew precisely what was needed.
“You think a loss is going to do this or that to your career, but I have a couple losses and I’m still top 10 in the world at lightweight,” he said. “It all depends on how you digest that loss.
“If you learn from it, you become a better fighter from it.”
The two have put in significant ring time as part of Broner’s Washington, D.C.-based preparation for a May 3 comeback fight with Carlos Molina on the Mayweather-Maidana show, while Lundy is simultaneously getting ready for a May 31 headlining date at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
The 30-year-old has won two in a row since coming up short against Postol in March 2013, taking consecutive wide decisions over 31-1 junior welterweight Olusegun Ajose four months later and 14-1 lightweight Angelo Santana in February. He’s rated 14th at 140 pounds in the Independent World Boxing Rankings, along eighth- and ninth-place positions in the division from the IBF and WBC, respectively.
At 135, he’s ranked fourth in the world by the IBO.
Lundy and Broner sparred six rounds with no break on Friday afternoon at the Bald Eagle Rec Center in D.C., where both the punches and the accompanying in-ring chatter flowed freely throughout.
For every “He can’t hit me” declaration from Broner to observers as he laid stationary against the ropes and played defense, there was a “Yeah, I’m kicking your ass” from Lundy as he perpetually bored in.
“The focus and everything are on a different level right now, because we know what’s at stake,” Lundy said. “We talk to each other and rough each other up. Sometimes one of us has a good day, sometimes we have a bad day. But we push each other to other heights. That’s what we do.”
And rather than channeling Molina to help his boss, Lundy said Team Broner allows him to be him.
“When you’re in there sparring, sometimes you’ve got to emulate somebody else,” he said. “But with me, they let me come in here and do my own thing. That’s just me being me. But everybody knows I’m a boxer-puncher. The way you see me spar is totally different from the way I fight.”
Either way, it’s apparent that Broner appreciates the effort that his rival puts in.
“I don’t spar with people when I know I could just kick their ass,” he said. “I spar with people where if I don’t come in on my A game, it’s a possibility I could get my ass kicked. That’s how I work.”
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
I like looking at a list of all the fighters in a given weight class top to bottom – regardless of who holds what belts. So from here forward, along with the slot given contenders by the sanctioning bodies, the positioning provided by the British-based Independent World Boxing Rankings will also be included.
IBF junior featherweight title – Osaka, Japan
Kiko Martinez (champion/No. 5 IWBR) vs. Hozumi Hasegawa (No. 13 contender/No. 18 IWBR)
Martinez (30-4, 22 KO): Second title defense; Eight wins in scheduled 12-round bouts, six by stoppage
Hasegawa (33-4, 15 KO): Fifteenth title fight (12-2); Held WBC titles at 118 and 126 pounds
Fitzbitz says: Two-weight champ Hasegawa has been working the lesser side of the street since the second of two fourth-round disasters. It says here he regains glory on home turf. Hasegawa by decision
WBC bantamweight title – Osaka, Japan
Shinsuke Yamanaka (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Stephane Jamoye (No. 3 contender/No. 24 IWBR)
Yamanaka (20-0-2, 15 KO): Sixth title defense; Five stoppage wins in six career title fights
Jamoye (25-4, 5 KO): First title fight; Sixth fight outside Belgium (2-3)
Fitzbitz says: If a guy is ranked third by a sanctioning body and 24th independently, there’s reason to believe he might not actually warrant a title shot. That seems to be the case here. Yamanaka in 8
WBA cruiserweight title – Moscow, Russia
Denis Lebedev (champion/No. 6 IWBR) vs. Guillermo Jones (champion in recess/No. 5 IWBR)
Lebedev (25-2, 19 KO): First title defense; Lost via 11th-round TKO to Jones in May 2013
Jones (39-3-2, 31 KO): Eighth title fight (4-1-2); Unbeaten since 2005 (8-0)
Fitzbitz says: Lebedev was six minutes away from beating Jones before a gruesome eye injury became his undoing. If he keeps the swelling to a minimum this time, he’ll finish the job. Lebedev by decision
IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO heavyweight titles – Oberhausen, Germany
Wladimir Klitschko (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Alex Leapai (No. 1 WBO/No. 29 IWBR)
Klitschko (61-3, 51 KO): Sixteenth IBF/IBO title defense; Unbeaten since 2004 (19-0)
Leapai (30-4-3, 24 KO): First title fight; Fifth fight outside Australia (4-0)
Fitzbitz says: Again, if the WBO ranks you No. 1 and an unaffiliated group says you’re 29th, you may be in for some trouble on the top tier. Klitschko will violently illustrate the difference. Klitschko in 6
WBA/WBO flyweight titles – Puerto Penasco, Mexico
Juan Francisco Estrada (champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Richie Mepranum (No. 10 WBO/unranked IWBR)
Estrada (25-2, 18 KO): Second title defenses; Twenty-fifth fight in Mexico, first since 2012 (23-1)
Mepranum (27-3-1, 6 KO): Second title fight (0-1); First fight at flyweight limit since 2010
Fitzbitz says: The Filipino lost his last title fight at flyweight in 2010 and hasn’t been setting the world on fire since. He’s a familiar name, but not a serious championship threat. Estrada by decision
WBC lightweight title – Carson, Calif.
Omar Figueroa (champion/No. 11 IWBR) vs. Jerry Belmontes (No. 15 contender/unranked IWBR)
Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KO): First title defense; Second career fight scheduled for 12 rounds (1-0)
Belmontes (19-3, 5 KO): First title fight; Lost three of five fights since 17-0 career start
Fitzbitz says: Challenger was slumping badly before scoring an upset win in his last outing. But it won’t help him in a spot against a young fighter who’s being pumped hard by Golden Boy. Figueroa in 8
Last week's picks: 3-0
2014 picks record: 25-5 (83.3 percent)
Overall picks record: 572-199 (74.1 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.