(Cornelius Bundrage connects against Cory Spinks; photo credit: Tom Casino, Showtime)
I’ve had enough “special” editions of ShoBox. They’re feeling a lot like a euphemism a grandma might utter: “My grandson is not all that smart, but bless his heart — he’s special to me,” whereas the usual ShoBox cards are actually good.
Saturday’s tripleheader on Showtime wasn’t worthless, in that it gave us information — two of the men on the card were auditioning for a big-money bout with Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez — and so far as there was a decent amount of contact in all three bouts. But the fights were one-sided on paper and ended up that way, with the favorites winning all three fights with very little trouble. Cornelius Bundrage beat Cory Spinks by 7th round technical knockout in a junior middleweight rematch, featherweight Gary Russell, Jr. stopped Christopher Perez in the 3rd and junior middleweight Erislandy Lara thrashed Freddy Hernandez over 10 rounds to take a unanimous decision.
CORNELIUS BUNDRAGE-CORY SPINKS II
How unsurprising. Bundrage was too much for Spinks the first time and was this time, too. On Saturday Bundrage was too rough, too strong and actually outboxed Spinks, once one of the purest boxers in the sport.
It began in the very 1st round, when a big Bundrage right hand decked Spinks. Spinks might never have recovered, although in a post-fight interview he maintained it wasn’t the case. Despite his lack of power, Spinks did his best to land meaningful blows against Bundrage thereafter, at least when Bundrage wasn’t mauling him half to death. I’m pretty sure at one point Bundrage put Spinks in a sleeper hold. But Spinks never had punching power in his prime, and with his legs not what they once were, his strategy of trying to actually hurt his opponent was little more than a desperate last refuge.
The 7th featured three knockdowns, all on sweeping right hands by Bundrage. When the ref stopped it, Spinks was in no more trouble than he was in the earlier knockdowns, but what was the point of the fight going on? Spinks was in a hole — I had him losing every round to that point — and wasn’t going to miraculously find the power that had evaded him his whole career. Spinks said afterward he has more left, but it’s hard for me to figure how he gets back into the 154-pound picture and actually beat someone should he get there.
Stylistically, Bundrage probably did himself no favors Saturday in an audition for an Alvarez bout, a la Austin Trout recently, with this kind of performance. Competitively, he proved he could be a bit of a handful for Alvarez — he’s a hard-nosed man, and isn’t above getting dirty to do the deed. He’s as good an option as exists for Alvarez right now, in terms of his ratio of competition to financial viability (he’s a former “Contender” contestant, for whatever that name recognition is worth), but if Alvarez-Bundrage is the fight for Sept. 15, then Golden Boy absolutely needs to back down in its showdown with Top Rank, which has scheduled an HBO pay-per-view fight between middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. that day. In an ideal world Bundrage and Lara square off for the right to face Alvarez, but at 39, I doubt Bundrage wants to take a dangerous opponent like that in order to get a bigger-money bout if he thinks he can get it without such risk.
GARY RUSSELL, JR.-CHRISTOPHER PEREZ
Russell is, without question, one of the brightest talents in the sport. He showed it once more against Perez Saturday with a 3rd round stoppage, as if we needed yet another reminder. What we don’t know about Russell is how he’ll do against anyone beyond the fringiest of fringe featherweight contenders.
His speed was too great, and the power that accompanies that speed, against Perez, with a right-left combo putting Perez down in the 2nd before scoring three more knockdowns in the 3rd with a left that put Perez through the ropes, then a combo that put him down again, and a 1-2 combo that forced the ref to halt the bout.
Russell told our friend Ryan Songalia this week that he didn’t want to be a “disappointment.” Too late. He’s well past the point of fights like this Perez bout, but either he or his team can’t bring themselves to step up the competition. He turned down a fight with Luis Franco for undisclosed reasons — Christ, can someone ask him why and demand he answer? — and for that matter a lot of people think Franco is well below Russell’s level right now. But at this point, Franco would be a god compared to the level of competition Russell has faced. I’d rather see Russell step up and lose in his next bout than keep being disappointed by his sissy matchmaking. Nothing against Perez, but Russell fighting him at this juncture is “sissy matchmaking.”
I want to root for Russell, a mega-talent with an appealing style who fights out of my backyard in the Washington, D.C. region. But I can’t. I guess I give his management team some level of credit for milking TV dates out of such mismatches over and over again, but that’s about the nicest thing I can say about it. It’s flat disgusting what’s going on with this kid, and I’m beyond fed up with it. It’s time to put up or shut up, because it was around that time last year, too. But apparently we’re just going to deal with years more of this bullshit, at this rate. If Russell doesn’t want to be a disappointment, maybe he should demand fights that won’t be disappointing and worse.
ERISLANDY LARA-FREDDY HERNANDEZ
It’s too bad that Golden Boy has its heart set, apparently, on keeping Alvarez out of the ring with Lara, because I think it’s a good, competitive, high-contact bout. Lara is clever, no doubt, but not so clever that it would be a wipeout against the young Mexican phenom. If there was any value in Lara”s fight Saturday, it was that it showed how a better fighter could capitalize on the openings that a lesser fighter did.
That’s not to say Lara-Hernandez was competitive, because it wasn’t. I can see giving Hernandez a couple rounds, maybe, but I gave Lara all of them. But Hernandez landed plenty of body shots, and the occasional shot down the middle or around Lara’s gloves. Alvarez could land many of those same punches, only more and better. Hernandez was more competitive than I ever expected him to be in this one, and that is an indicator that Alvarez, who’s better than Hernandez in every single way, could be competitive or even beat Lara. Hernandez, with his toughness, has the makings of a veteran fighter who could be a final test for prospects-turning-contenders, be it at welterweight or junior middleweight, spoiling some of their hopes and proving the rest worthy.
For Saturday, Lara was too good. He’s a real contender already, see, one of the best few 154-pounders in the world. His left cross and right hook, the latter of which was money to both the head and the body, dominated the fight. The only blip on the scorecards, at least as far as I’m concerned, is the 7th round point deduction for a head butt, which was totally appropriate. He landed one in the 6th that appeared quite deliberate, and the one in the 7th wasn’t so innocent-looking, either. He’s fast and skilled offensively, and packs a decent enough punch, more than enough to neutralize his modest defensive shortcomings against most everyone else in the division.
If he doesn’t get the Alvarez fight, and he almost certainly will not, who knows what’s next for Lara, absent the Bundrage idea I floated above. Golden Boy is invested enough in him to get TV dates for him, but beyond that, hasn’t taken that big an interest in him. He’s dangerous enough without any huge financial upside that I’m not sure more can be done with him that keeping him on TV and hoping some momentum builds. You’d like to think somebody would see this fight and decide they could do something with their career to be the one to steal his name for their record, but don’t count on it.