Spence poised to fight for world title after sensational knockout of Bundu

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Errol Spence Jr. entered Sunday’s 147-pound fight with Leonard Bundu hoping to do what undefeated champion Keith Thurman could not: finish off Bundu before the final bell.

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Spence Jr. vs Bundu highlights: August 21, 2016

Not only did Spence achieve his goal, he did so in half the time it took Thurman to beat Bundu.

Behind a pair of sensational final-round knockdowns, Errol Spence Jr. (21-0, 18 KOs) collected his eighth consecutive stoppage victory with a spectacular sixth-round knockout of Leonard Bundu (32-2-2, 13 KOs) at Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn, New York.

With yet another nearly flawless performance, Spence remained undefeated, became the first man to stop the 41-year-old Bundu and put himself in position to fight for a world title for the first time. Spence—a 26-year-old Long Island native who resides in Desoto, Texas—immediately becomes the mandatory challenger for Kell Brook, the unbeaten 147-pound titleholder from the U.K.

“My slogan is, ‘Man Down,’ and that’s what I’m trying to do every time I come into the ring,” said Spence, who outlanded Bundu 137-51 in total punches, including 86-40 in power shots. “I knew [Bundu] was very tough from watching his past fights. He’s been in wars and he’s very experienced. But I thought my performance was great.”

Spence walked into the ring not only with youth on his side, but also with three-inch height and 3½-inch reach advantages. In in the early going, though, he struggled a bit to figure out Bundu’s switch-hitting, come-forward style.

But even as he occasionally fought in retreat in the opening two rounds, Spence generally withstood or deflected his older opponent’s attack, hammering lefts to the body over his jab and ripping similar shots up the middle.

“I was shaky in the first and second rounds,” Spence said. “I was just a little confused because of his herky-jerky style. Once I was able to catch his rhythm and break him down, I knew I had him.”

After trapping Bundu in a corner and landing some solid shots late in Round 3, Spence found more of a groove during what was mostly a toe-to-toe fourth. He perfectly timed vicious left-right combinations to either side of his Bundu’s head, including a left uppercut that dislodged the Italian fighter’s mouthpiece.

I saw Bundu wobbling, and his eyes kind of rolled back in his head. That’s when I jumped on him and went for the kill. Errol Spence Jr.

With Bundu becoming more hittable with each passing round, Spence ratcheted up the pressure in the sixth. Midway through the stanza, he pinned his foe against the ropes and ripped home a head-jarring short left uppercut to the chin.

The force of the shot lifted Bundu off his feet, sent him staggering to his right and he fell to the canvas. However, veteran referee Johnny Callas—who appeared to be shielded by the punch—waved off the knockdown, indicating Bundu was pushed down.

Despite Callas’ erroneous ruling, Bundu was clearly hurt, and Spence knew it.

“I saw him wobbling, and his eyes kind of rolled back in his head,” said Spence, who connected on an astonishing 64 percent of his power punches, including 15 of the final 19 he attempted. “That’s when I jumped on him and went for the kill.”

Indeed he did, again pressing Bundu against the ropes after the fight resumed. This time, Spence followed a short left with a lights-out right hook that deposited Bundu flat on his back.

Knocked out cold with his left leg bent awkwardly underneath him, Bundu nearly fell out of the ring as his head hung over the edge of the canvas. Given Bundu’s condition, Callas never bothered to count, officially ending things at the 2:06 mark.

Bundu, whose only previous loss was a 12-round shutout decision to Thurman in December 2014, was gracious in defeat, acknowledging he was beaten by a superior fighter.

“He certainly lived up to the hype,” said Bundu, who turns 42 in November. “He looked fresh in every round. He was really good [and] remained in control.

“Errol was more precise than Thurman. With Keith, every punch is a power punch. You feel them. Errol threw more, but they didn’t all hurt.”

Not only has Spence stopped eight consecutive opponents, but all have fallen in less than eight rounds. Along the way, Spence has steadily increased his level of competition: Including his past two victories over Bundu and former 140-pound champion Chris Algieri in April, Spence’s last six foes entered the ring with a combined record of 151-8-4.

Those six fights occurred within the past 16 months, but despite all that activity, Spence says he’s not interested in an extended hiatus. The 2012 U.S. Olympian has been waiting a long time for a title shot, and now that it’s within reach, he’s wants to go get it as quickly as possible.

He might have to be a little patient, though, as Brook is temporarily moving up to 160 pounds to challenge undefeated knockout artist Gennady Golovkin on September 10. Regardless of the result against Golovkin, Brook will then be obligated to make a deal to fight Spence or risk losing his 147-pound crown.

“I want a shot at Kell Brook as soon as he’s done with Triple G. But if he doesn’t want to fight me, then he needs to vacate and I’ll fight somebody else,” Spence said. “I don’t care; I just want to fight for the belt. And I definitely want [to do it] this year.

“I am one of the top fighters at 147 pounds. With this performance, I proved that again today.”

In other action from Ford Amphitheater, Heather Hardy (18-0, 4 KOs) of Brooklyn won a 10-round majority decision over 126-pound East Coast rival Shelly Vincent (18-1, 1 KO) of Providence, Rhode Island. Also, in a 128-pound matchup of Dominican Republic natives, rising prospect Claudio Marrero (20-1, 14 KOs) earned a fourth-round TKO victory over Luis Hinojosa (28-10, 17 KOs).

For complete pre- and post-fight coverage of Spence vs Bundu, hit up our fight page.

Errol Spence Jr. and Leonard Bundu

Errol Spence Jr. fires a big uppercut at Leonard Bundu during Sunday's 147-pound title eliminator bout. Spence used an uppercut to floor Bundu in the sixth round, then knocked him out moments later. (Ryan Greene/Premier Boxing Champions)

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