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Q&A: Bundrage discusses Steward, Golden Boy, Mayweather, Alvarez
IBF junior middleweight titleholder Cornelius Bundrage looks to revive his native Detroit with a Feb. 23 victory over Ishe Smith that he hopes will earn him a mega bout opposite Floyd Mayweather or Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.
Junior middleweight titleholder Cornelius Bundrage spoke with RingTV.com about having signed with Golden Boy in October, his break-up with late former manager Emanuel "Manny" Steward and his feelings heading into the Feb. 23 defense of his IBF belt against veteran Ishe Smith on Showtime in his native Detroit.
Coming off June's Showtime-televised seventh-round stoppage of Cory Spinks, whom he originally dethroned by fifth-round stoppage in August of 2010, Bundrage (32-4, 19 knockouts) claimed in April that his contracts with both Steward and former promoter Don King had expired.
Bundrage signed with Golden Boy in early October, a few weeks prior to the death of Steward at age 68 on Oct. 25, with Bundrage and the legendary trainer providing different reasons for why they ended their nearly three-year-long relationship.
Steward cited what he considered to be Bundrage's unprofessional behavior after the victory over Spinks failed to earn him a coveted shot at WBC counterpart Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs).
Steward said Bundrage showed no gratitude to either him or Golden Boy Promotions, the latter of which won the purse bid to promote Bundrage-Spinks and positioned the Detroit-based 39-year-old for consideration against Alvarez.
Steward said that Bundrage had orally committed himself to fight for Golden Boy prior to facing Spinks, but then, backed off of that agreement after winning the bout.
A free agent, Bundrage said he was approached by other promoters, including the now-defunct The Money Team (TMT Promotions), which was to be formed by recording artist 50 Cent and fighter Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Although he said that he has since made peace with the situation through an acquaintance of Steward, Bundrage explained, at the time that there were no "hard feelings between myself and Emanuel Steward, because I really do appreciate everything that Emanuel Steward did for me."
"I've definitely got love for the Kronk Gym and the Kronk fighters," said Bundrage, referring to Steward's famed Detroit-based training facility.
"But at 39 years old, it's time for me to make the best decision for me and my family. Emanuel, we didn't sit down and talk about no signing bonus or nothing. It's just time to move on."
Bundrage said that his relationship with Steward took root when his 12th fight -- only his third outside of Michigan -- resulted in his first-ever flight on an airplane.
It was Steward who positioned Bundrage for a unanimous decision in Memphis, Tenn., over Anthony Bowman, which improved him to 12-0 with five knockouts on the undercard of Lennox Lewis' stoppage victory over Mike Tyson in June of 2002.
Bundrage shared his thoughts about facing Smith (24-5, 11 KOs) as well as all of the above during this Q&A:
RingTV.com: What has motivated you to devote so much to your physical conditioning as you seem to (despite age and inactivity)?
If I'm going to be in the game, whether I'm 50 years old, I want to be the best. I don't want to be in it if I can't compete.
So he should give the champ more respect than he's giving me, because if it wasn't for me giving him this fight, he would still be on ESPN2.
For me, to be honest, all of my fights are tough fights. They realize that to beat me, it's a big thing. Ishe Smith is no exception. I'm not looking past Ishe Smith.
RingTV.com: Are you happy with the fact that you have this fight coming up against Ishe Smith, or are you disappointed that it is not a bigger fight?
This is a big fight for me because it's in my home town and in my city where I grew up. My city is struggling really badly.
So for me to bring hockey to the Joe Louis Arena and to wake the Joe Louis Arena back up, that's going to be a really great thing.
The Detroit Lions, they just lost. The Detroit Tigers didn't win the world series. So I'm boxing to put smiles on people's faces. This is going to be real big.
RingTV.com: How big was the second win over Spinks to your career?
CB: When I won that fight over Corey Spinks, it kind of woke me up from the dead. People started to say, "K-9 this," and, "K-9 that."
Beating Corey Spinks, man, everybody and their momma started calling me. 50 Cent started calling me, wanting me to be on The Money Team.
So to be fighting on Showtime, all I've got to do is to go out there and to handle my business and to do what I do best, and just let God handle the rest.
RingTV.com: Are you happy with your new Golden Boy deal?
Because, being a world champion, I was able to get the fight with Ishe Smith. I could have gotten that without a promoter. I don't think I could have gotten it on Showtime.
But then again, if they can't get me the big fight, the one that I deserve, being a world champion, and having proven myself. I deserve to fight the Canelos and the Mayweathers of the world.
RingTV.com: Do your personal struggles in any way parallel or equate symbolically with some of your Detroit natives?
A van ran over her head. So I've been through the struggles, and I've seen the struggles. I've been round the killings and all of that.
So when my town was going through, and what Detroit is going through, I've been there and done that a long time ago. I feel like I'm a product of what's going on right here and right now.
So anything that I can do to help my city, and to help my economy, you know, I'm willing to do it. So that's how come it's so important to me to be helping the economy and to be bringing a fight to Detroit.
RingTV.com: Can you talk about how your relationship with Manny Steward?
Before he passed, he had his nephew, Sugar Hill, as my trainer. So he gave him the okay to train me. If he was still upset with me, this shows that he wasn't as mad as people thought that he was.
That's the type of relationship that we had. My very first fight where I had to get on an airplane was with Emanuel Steward.
When you're a business man, you've got to make the best decision for your family, and at the end of the day, he understood what was going on. He was just upset.
With me having been able to make peace with his really, really good friends, I feel like I have been able to reconcile and make peace with him. I'm definitely going to be fighting for a cause on Feb. 23.
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com