After working so hard to find a promoter, Cornelius Bundrage is ecstatic to be without one.
The 39-year-old Detroit native was toiling and without direction in 2006 following a knockout loss against Sechew Powell. The first-round TKO loss on Showtime’s ShoBox series forced him to enter The Contender television tournament for exposure and the chance to sign a contract with a promoter.
He was the last fighter picked by the coaches on the reality series (then on ESPN), but wound up finishing third on the program nonetheless. It was enough to help get him the promoter he wanted eventually, but little else in between.
Although he won the IBF junior middleweight title with a fifth-round knockout over Cory Spinks in 2010, he has fought just once since then (a rematch decision over Powell). Despite holding a title in a money-laden 154-pound division, his promoter Don King just couldn’t finagle a meaningful fight for him.
He’s found one—sort of—a rematch with Spinks, which headlines this Saturday’s Showtime Championship Boxing offering. Except it wasn’t King who made it happen, it was Golden Boy Promotions which won the purse bid for $211,000 to make the fight a reality. King bid just $51,000.
Bundrage claims to be a free agent now.
“I don’t have a problem with Don King, I’m just happy to be out of the contract with Don King because he didn’t do nothing for me. Think about it, whenever I fought under contract for Don King, it was off a mandatory,” Bundrage told RingTV.com. “Why should I sign another contract when you never did anything with the original contract?”
The frustration reached new heights when the Kronk Gym project was left off a Don King-promoted event at the Pontiac Silverdome near his hometown of Detroit, Michigan, a card headlined by Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander (then promoted by King) on HBO. Bundrage claims he ran into King in the bathroom early in the night and expressed his displeasure, but nothing ever came of it.
For the remainder of the night, the always amicable slugger walked around the stadium in a fur jacket, handing out free signed 8x10s photos to any fan who wanted one. He was promoting himself in every sense of the word.
In an April Q&A interview with Fightnews.com, however, Spinks (39-6, 11 knockouts) claimed that Bundrage was offered four fights dating back to 2011, and that his claims of being underutilized were “BS.”
“Don King wasn’t giving me any fights,” maintained Bundrage (31-4, 18 KOs). “I signed with Don King just really off a handshake. He promised that he was going to get me fights, and he didn’t get me any fights, so I don’t really understand what Cory Spinks was talking about.”
A devout Christian, Bundrage is typically overly complimentary and polite, but there seems to be an uncommon level of animosity for the rematch with Spinks. The former RING welterweight champion claimed that his conditioning led to being knocked out in their first encounter, which “K-9” took great exception to.
“Man, that was an excuse, because he had three training camps,” Bundrage told RingTV.com. “If you can’t be ready in three training camps, then I don’t know. I don’t know how you’re ever going to get ready for a person, if you’ve got three training camps and you still can’t come to the fight in shape. If you’re a world champion, you’re supposed to always be in shape. Me being world champion, I’m always in shape, I’m always ready. That’s why I’m the champion of the world and he’s not.”
There is more than just the IBF belt on the line this weekend in his opinion, too.
Unbeaten WBC 154-pound titleholder Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is still without an opponent for his Sept. 15 date in Las Vegas, and given that the Spinks bout is financed by Golden Boy, Bundrage sees it as an audition for that very role.
“I believe it’s God’s plan that me and Canelo are going to fight after I win this fight on June 30,” said Bundrage. “Look how everything’s happening lately, it’s just predestined that I’ll get that fight. I don’t wish bad on nobody, but it just seems like it’s lined up for me to fight him.”
More appropriately, there is a lineup of fighters for Canelo, including Austin Trout, Erislandy Lara, and longshots such as Pawel Wolak and the Victor Ortiz conqueror Josesito Lopez.
Just as he’s been doing lately though, Bundrage won’t stop promoting himself, whether it will get him anywhere or not.
“It would be a straight up war, like Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns. It’s worth PPV,” said Bundrage. “It’d do better than you think it’d do.”
Photo / Matthew Lewis-Getty Images
Follow Corey Erdman on Twitter @corey_erdman