Spence a huge favorite over Bundu
By Patrick McHugh: If 41-year-old Leonard Bundu (33-1-2, 12 KOs) is going to beat Errol Spence Jr. (20-0, 17 KOs) this afternoon, then he’s going to need to overcome some crazy odds for him to do so. Spence is reportedly 100::1 favorite with some oddsmakers, and it’s not all that surprising because he’s got everything going for him in this match-up. The 41-year-old Bundu is smaller, weaker, older, and he doesn’t have the same pedigree as the 26-year-old Spence.
Spence and Bundu will be fighting today, August 21, in a contest televised by Premier Boxing Champions on NBC at the Ford Amphitheater in Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York. The fight will start at 5PM ET/2PM PT on NBC.
With the timing of the fight, there’s likely going to be a lot of casual boxing fans tuning in to see it due to it being televised on free television rather than on the premium networks HBO or Showtime.
The two of them will be fighting in an International Boxing Federation welterweight title eliminator. The winner becomes the mandatory for IBF champion Kell Brook, who might not come back down in weight to defend his title after his fight next month against IBF/IBO/WBA/WBC middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin.
Even if Brook does return to defend his IBF title, it’s a tough ask for him to beat the southpaw Spence, because he tends to rehydrate a lot just like Brook for his fights This means that Brook wouldn’t have a gigantic weight advantage over the 2012 U.S Olympian Spence like he would if he were fighting a normal welterweight.
“If the knockout comes, I’ll take it. But I’m not going to force it. He’s a tough and durable fighter. It has to be setup and it has to be calculated,” said Spence about possibly knocking out Bundu.
Bundu went the full 12 rounds against unbeaten Keith “One Time” Thurman in 2014, so there’s a chance that he could go the full 12 rounds against Spence tonight. That’s not to say that Bundu can take Spence’s shots for the full 12 rounds. It’s more of a case of Bundu having a chance to go the distance if Spence decides he doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of trying to knockout the tough as nails 5’6 ½” Bundu.
If you re-watch the Thurman vs. Bundu fight from 2014, you can see Thurman making a mental decision not to even bother going for a knockout after knocking him down in the 1st round. Thurman was coming off of a shoulder injury and it appears that he didn’t want to press the issue. His shoulder might not have been 100 percent at the time, and he didn’t have a huge incentive to try and get Bundu out of there.
Bundu had never fought anyone of note before that fight, so Thurman didn’t have the pressure on him to try and outdo another top fighter that had beaten Bundu as well. In Spence’s case, he has that pressure because his performance against Bundu tonight will be compared with Thurman’s in every way. Spence needs to beat Bundu and look better than Thurman did. Thurman beat Bundu by a 12 round unanimous decision by the scores 120-107, 120-107 and 120-107. You can’t get much better than that. Thurman did a great job against Bundu given the circumstances with him coming off a bad shoulder injury. A healthy Thurman would likely take Bundu out right now if the two of them were to face each other at this point in his career.
Spence’s management couldn’t find anyone to fight him with the contenders ranked above #6 IBF Bundu in the IBF’s rankings. They had to drop down all the way to the No.6 spot to get someone that was willing to fight him. It’s good that Bundu agreed to take the fight, because if Spence and his promoter Lou Dibella had to fight someone outside of the top 10, it would have made the fight look like a farce.
“We went up the rankings trying to find an opponent. A lot of guys didn’t want to fight me, even in a title eliminator,” said Spence.
Bundu is a 2000 Olympian with excellent boxing skills and better punching power than he’s given credit. Bundu can hit hard when he’s in close to his opponents, and that’s likely what he’ll be trying to do against Spence today. If Bundu can get close enough to smother Spence’s punching power, he’ll have a decent chance of winning the fight.
Bundu will need to stay very close to Spence, however, because he can’t let Spence get leverage on his shots the way he likes to do. Spence doesn’t need much space to generate huge power in close. He likes to wind up his arms and throw hard shots to the body. If Bundu can stay on his chest for the full 12 rounds, he could go the distance and leave it up to the judges to decide which of the two did the better work,
In 2014, Bundu beat Frankie Gavin by a 12 round split decision. Bundu knocked Gavin down with a left to the body in the 6th round. Gavin likely would have been knocked out in that fight if he hadn’t spit out his mouthpiece in the process of getting knocked down. Surprisingly, the referee Daniel Van de Wiele didn’t take a point away from Gavin for spitting out his mouthpiece during the knockdown. Bundu was seen laughing at how Gavin was able to get away with losing his mouthpiece without being docked a point by the referee. The fight took place in the UK. Bundu dominated the rest of the fight. That was by far the best win of Bundu’s 11-year pro career. Bundu also knocked out Lee Purdy in the 12th round in December 2013. Other than Bundu’s fights against Purdy, Gavin and Thurman, those are pretty much the only notable names on his resume during his career. Bundu hasn’t switched his gear to another level until now, and it’s kind of late in the game for him to be going for a world title. Bundu should have made his move five years ago for a world title instead of wasting valuable time fighting European level opposition.
“I’m not worried about what’s going to happen next. I know what’s next if I take care of my business. If I win I’m guaranteed a chance at the world title,” said Spence.
Spence will either fight Brook next if he wins today or he’ll need to fight for the vacant IBF title against one of the top contenders in the IBF’s rankings. That means it could be someone like #3 IBF Konstantin Ponomarev, #4 Jeff Horn, #5 Lamont Peterson, #7 Bradley Skeete, #8 Charlie Manyuchi, #9 Eddie Gomez, #10 Andre Berto, #11 Samuel Vasquez, #12 Kevin Bizier, #13 Carlos Ocampo, #14 Rico Muller or #15 Ahmed El Mousaoui. One of those fighters will surely accept the fight against Spence if Brook chooses not to come back down and defend his IBF title against him.
Ideally, it would be better if Brook comes back down to fight Spence, because that would make for a great fight, and it would give him the chance to take on two top fighters in a row. Even if Brook gets blown out by Golovkin on September 10, it will still look good if he comes back down and at least tries to beat Spence. it would look bad if Brook vacates his IBF title without a fight like we saw with Saul Canelo Alvarez giving up his WBC middleweight title recently when faced with the prospects of defending it against Golovkin.