By Mike Coppinger
At 41 years of age, Cornelius “K9” Bundrage is once again a world champion.
Bundrage dropped Carlos Molina twice (once in Round 1 and again in the 10th) en route to the upset unanimous decision victory at the Oasis Hotel Complex in Cancun, Mexico, on Saturday, reclaiming the IBF junior middleweight title he held just last year.
The judges scored it 116-109, 117-106 and 115-110.
It was a far better bout than expected, with some great exchanges in a fiery fight. Both boxers put on spirited performances, but K9’s sharp counter punching, power shots and superior aggressiveness won the fight.
Bundrage (34-5, 19) set the tone from the very first round, scoring a knockdown with a big right hand.
He followed up in Round 2, doing a nice job of mixing in uppercuts in the clinch throughout the fight.
Molina (22-6-2, 6 KOs) took long rests during the bout, perhaps due to ring rust.
The fight was the Mexican’s first of 2014, following a one-year plus hiatus due to visa issues in the U.S. He was slated to defend the strap against Jermall Charlo in March underneath Canelo Alvarez-Alfredo Angulo, but was jailed during fight week due to immigration issues.
With the voluntary bout scrapped, Molina was forced to defend against his mandatory, Bundrage, who earned the shot with a decision win over Joey Hernandez in January.
Molina bounced back in Round 3; he caught K9’s attention with a sharp counter right, but Bundrage socked Molina right back with an overhand just before the bill.
K9 socked Molina with an overhand right just before the bell to signal the end of Round 3.
The Detroit-based fighter continued to score power shots at the fight wore on, consistently catching Molina with sharp counter rights coming in. Molina was content with throwing few punches each round, but picked up his activity in the middle stages.
In the eighth Bundrage staggered Molina back to the ropes, then followed up with a concentrated body attack. The overly officious referee broke them up to deduct a point from K9 for rabbit punches, and when the action resumed, Molina was the aggressor. Bundrage hurt Molina again in the waning moments with a big body blow, but luckily for Molina the round came to a close.
The point deduction seemed like home cooking for Molina. The fouls were by no means egregious and the halt in action coincidently came a time when Molina was absorbing some big shots along the ropes.
In Round 10, Bundrage really stepped on the gas pedal. He blasted Molina with a right cross to the body, then ripped two big uppercuts.
K9 dropped Molina with a series of body shots, and Molina got up on real wobbly legs. But as K9 was following up, his tape came off the gloves for what seemed like the millionth time, causing another advantageous stop in the action for Molina.
Bundrage took off Round 12 with the fight in the bag and Molina tried to go for broke, but it was too little, too late for the hard-luck 31-year-old.
Molina failed to make a single successful defense of the title he won from Ishe Smith in September 2013. Molina has often been on the wrong end of controversy, his bouts with James Kirkland and Erislandy Lara chief among them. But on this night, he lost fair and square.
Even though it was a good performance, Bundrage now has to be seen as one of the weakest titleholders in the sport. We’ll see how long he can hold on to his strap.
Follow Mike Coppinger on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger