Ouma Wasn’t Ouma As Bundrage Gets A Career-Best Win

Somewhere, somehow, Kassim Ouma has stopped being Kassim Ouma. The once-exciting former junior middleweight (154 lbs.) titlist used to throw more than a hundred punches a round, and was undaunted by the notion of getting hit in return. On ESPN2 Friday night, his opponent, Cornelius Bundrage, had something to do with him looking less like his old self, with all his holding and wrestling. But Ouma seemed rusty, tentative, unfocused and slow. In the end, he paid for it with a decision loss. The fight was not easy on the eyes. My favorite thing about it was that referee Steve Smoger took a point from Bundrage for excessive holding. I wish more referees would do this. Nothing mars a fight’s aesthetic appeal like non-stop clinches. I wish Smoger would’ve taken more points earlier, and more points later when Bundrage didn’t stop holding after the deduction. But most every ref wouldn’t even take a point from Bundrage, so Smoger is to be commended for acting. (In the end, I scored it at home a one-point victory for Bundrage, and the judges saw it a pretty narrow victory for him, too, but it was a close fight, so it could have really hurt Bundrage.) I don’t know what Bundrage does from here. He’s pretty limited offensively, although he does throw that straight right hand pretty hard. He’s a credible enough opponent for a top-tier guy, because he’s just this side of OK, and because his status as a graduate of “The Contender” television show offers to boost the purses a little. He probably fought as well as he could, and he got a career best victory out of it. Good for him. I don’t care to watch his next fight, because nothing irritates me more than the whole “1-2 clinch” dance. But he’s got reason for some professional pride Friday, and maybe this win helps him make a little more money in his next bout, something I wouldn’t begrudge him. I also don’t know what Ouma does from here. I’ve worried before, and continue to worry after this loss, that his heart’s not in boxing anymore. He made scads of mistakes — not throwing the jab, not moving in the right direction, coming straight in, not fighting well on the inside, and so on and so on — and if he’s not ever going to fight with that crazy pressure again, what does he have to offer? He doesn’t hit that hard, and his boxing skills are negligible. He’s young enough where he could conceivably make another run at it, but I can’t envision it happening. Which saddens me, because Ouma at his best is a joy to watch, and as far as his back story of being forced into the army in Uganda as a child, I want to root for him badly. If he’s not doing it in the ring, though, I can only root for him as a fellow human being, because he didn’t entertain or otherwise enthuse me with his performance Friday.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.