They say that with age comes wisdom, and Leonard Bundu fits the axiom in this respect: The 41-year-old fighter is smart enough to realize he’s in an uphill climb against Errol Spence Jr., an undefeated 26-year-old juggernaut.
In addition to youth, Errol Spence Jr. (20-0, 17 KOs) enters Sunday’s 147-pound title elimination clash against Leonard Bundu (33-1-2, 12 KOs) with a three-inch edge in height, a 3½-inch edge in reach and incalculable advantages in speed and power.
Here’s one way to quantify the latter: While Spence has stopped each of his last seven opponents dating to September 2014, Bundu has just 12 knockouts in his 11-plus-year career.
So obviously Spence will enter Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn, New York (NBC, 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT) as the clear-cut favorite. That said, Bundu does have one thing working in his favor: Mindful that his time is running short, he’s embracing a nothing-to-lose, go-for-broke attitude, which is always dangerous in the squared circle.
“At my age, I know I will not be having many other chances. So I’m going to give this all that I have,” says Bundu, who turns 42 in November. “I know I have something left in me that people haven’t seen yet.”
A resident of Italy who was born in Sierra Leone, Bundu will be competing on U.S. soil for only the third time. The first was in December 2014, when “The Lion” traveled to Las Vegas and got mauled by 147-pound champion Keith Thurman.
In suffering his only professional defeat in his only title fight to date, Bundu was dropped in the first round and was shutout on the scorecards.
Claiming he “got caught up in the show business and the hype” prior to the Thurman clash, Bundu insists his mentality will be different against Spence.
“This is my second chance to [fight on] a world stage,” he says. “Now I’m more concentrated. I know I can perform better than what I did [against] Keith Thurman.”
Although he was pummeled by Thurman, Bundu could take solace in knowing he was just the third fighter to go the distance against the unbeaten champ, and just the second to take him 12 rounds.
Bundu also proved resilient, bouncing back from the defeat with a pair of victories over Pablo Munguia in June 2015 (eight-round unanimous decision in Shelton, Washington) and Jussi Koivula in April (ninth-round TKO in Italy). Of course, neither of those fighters are on Spence’s level.
In fact, given his rising-star status and his string of seven consecutive knockouts—including a sensational fifth-round demolition of former 140-pound champion Chris Algieri in Brooklyn on April 16—one can’t help but wonder if Spence might take the aging Bundu lightly.
Not a chance, Spence says. Rather, the slick southpaw is quick to praise his opponent’s skills and resourcefulness, and says he expects a tactically challenging bout in his third career appearance in Brooklyn.
“Bundu switches. Sometimes he tries to box, sometimes he tries to bang,” says Spence, a resident of Desoto, Texas, who was born in Long Island, New York, where several family members still live. “I’m sure Bundu hurt [Thurman] a couple times. Maybe [Thurman] thought it was just easier to outpunch him and just win [on points].”
Bundu understands that, next to Thurman, Spence will be the toughest test of his career, yet he refuses to concede anything. He warns against those who assume the outcome Sunday will be similar to the Thurman, insisting that while he may be older, he’s also wiser.
Bundu also knows he has experience on his side, having fought more than three times as many professional rounds as Spence. And if he is to buck the odds, Bundu realizes he’ll have to make the most of that experience.
“I’m coming motivated. I know this is another good opportunity for me to show my skills to the world,” says Bundu, who represented Italy in the 2000 Olympics. “I will be putting everything into this match. I’m not only coming there to go the 12 full rounds. I’m coming for the victory.”
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