Showtime commentator Steve Farhood said it best when he concluded the network’s broadcast from Indio, Calif., on Saturday with the words: “the ‘Canelo’ sweepstakes continues.”
The special ShoBox: The New Generation tripleheader from the Fantasy Springs Casino opened and closed with two junior middleweight contenders who want a shot at WBC 154-pound titleholder Saul Alvarez, the young Mexican star who is still without an opponent for his Sept. 15 date in Las Vegas.
IBF beltholder Cornelius Bundrage, THE RING’s No. 9-rated junior middleweight, scored a seventh-round stoppage of Cory Spinks in the main event, while the magazine’s No. 5-rated contender, Erislandy Lara, outpointed Freddy Hernandez over 10 rounds in the first bout of the broadcast.
Although both fighters got the job done – Bundrage (32-4, 19 knockouts) needed only two more rounds to knockout the former champ in a rematch of his 2010 title-winning effort; while Lara (17-1-1, 11 KOs) soundly outboxed the game but outclassed gatekeeper from Mexico – neither contender really “sold” himself as an attractive B-side to Alvarez’s Mexican Independence Day weekend event.
Bundrage dropped Spinks (39-7, 11 KOs) with an overhand right in the first round and closed the show by knocking the southpaw down three times in the seventh, but the 39-year-old Detroit native didn’t look good in rounds two through six.
Neither did Spinks. The ugly fight featured more holding, grappling, low blows, and takedowns than clean exchanges between the two awkward veterans. Spinks, who looks faded at age 34, had his moments in rounds three, four and five, but at the end of the day the once-savvy boxer lacked the legs and the power to threaten Bundrage, who – if nothing else – is aggressive and can punch.
“I felt like I was going to get him, that’s why I was kind of hard headed (between rounds),” said Bundrage, who frustrated his hall-of-fame trainer Emanuel Steward by not following instructions after having Spinks in trouble in the opening round. “I knew in my mind that I was going to get him. (Spinks) can’t stand up to all that fight, you know. I bring the fight.”
Bundrage has a bright personality, which was on full display during his post-fight interview with Farhood. However, the jury is still out on whether the unorthodox puncher could compete with Alvarez or help push the Sept. 15 promotion.
Bundrage, who goes by many nicknames, including “K9,” believes he would do well on both fronts.
“The Black Rocky, Iron Man versus Canelo,” he barked at the end of his interview. “Let’s get it on!”
Lara doesn’t have Bundrage’s personality or enthusiasm but the 29-year-old former amateur star has the talent and skill set to give Alvarez all he can handle.
The problem with Lara, who was one fight (a first-round KO of Ronald Hearns in April) removed from losing a very controversial 12-round decision to Paul Williams going into the Hernandez fight, is that if the Cuban southpaw doesn’t score an opening-round stoppage he usually makes for uneventful distance bouts.
Lara’s unanimous decision over Hernandez (30-3, 20 KOs) was not only uneventful, but marred by numerous headbutts – all of which seemed to be initiated by the Cuban. By the seventh round, during which referee Wayne Hedgepeth docked Lara a point for the repeated infraction, Hernandez’s face was a bloody mess from head clashes.
Apart from the headbutts, Lara was in command of the fight by utilizing his usual stick-and-move strategy. He landed 64 percent of his power punches, according to CompuBox, en route to dominating scores of 99-90 and 98-91.
Pay no attention to veteran judge Marty Denkin’s 95-94 card. The fight wasn’t close at all. Hernandez, who stalked forward all night, was able to land some left hooks to the body whenever he got Lara against the ropes, but he didn’t connect with enough clean head shots to win more than one or two rounds.
Still, the Mexico City native should be commended for being so determined despite Lara’s tricky style, the many headbutts and four bleeding cuts on his face.
If Lara had a little bit of Hernandez’s come-forward style and some of Bundrage’s reckless aggression he would be the perfect opponent for Alvarez on Sept. 15. But as it is, Lara represents a lot of risk and very little reward for the unbeaten red head.
The one fighter who was able to combine skill with power and aggression on the Golden Boy Promotions card was undefeated featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr., who scored four knockdowns en route to a one-sided third-round stoppage of unheralded Christopher Perez in the second bout of the ShoBox broadcast.
Russell (20-0, 12 KOs), a 24-year-old southpaw from Capitol Heights, Md., dropped Perez with a left cross-right hook combination in the second round before putting the lanky 22-year-old from Culiacan, Mexico, down three times in the third round.
Russell, a two-time national amateur champ and 2008 Olympian, dropped Perez (23-3, 14 KOs) with a left, and then a right uppercut, before a one-two combo put the Sinaloa native down for a third time in the round, prompting veteran referee Pat Russell to stop the fight.
The performance backed up Russell’s reputation as one of the sport’s top prospects, however, hardcore fans who have followed his career for the past few years are ready to see him tested by a legitimate featherweight contender.
Photos / Naoki Fukuda