Errol Spence Jr is ready for fight night with Leonard Bundu – With their scheduled bout on the 21st only a short matter of days ahead, we write about the native of Long Island, Errol Spence Jr’s journey from his experience at the London 2012 Olympic games to being on the cusp of a world title shot.
The 2009 Golden Gloves and US National Champion was confident going into the 2012 Olympics, having won the Olympic qualifier event and was feeling sharp. His opener was against Myke Carvalho of Brazil which he won 16-10. His second was against fleet footed Indian opponent Vikas Krishan, which he came out on top in a closer 15-13 victory reaching the Quarter Finals. Here he met Andrey Zamkovoy, one of Russia’s top prospects and the eventual tournament Bronze Medallist who defeated Spence Jr 16-11 to advance.
In his own words, Spence acknowledged the Olympics as a “big moment” and “something I’ll always remember.” By fighting on the biggest stage in amateur boxing it prepared him to face the lights he would work so hard towards fighting under in the coming four years. Shortly after his quarter final loss Errol Spence Jr joined the paid ranks of boxing.
Within 12 months of making the transition and competing as a U.S. Olympian, Spence had racked up 10 wins, 8 of which had come before the final bell. His 16th bout came against tough Colombian Samuel Vargas at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The bout did not last long with Spence pounding the body of Vargas and wearing down his opponent until a series of hard punches to the head of the Colombian forced the referee to call an end to the bout.
In his next trio of outings, Spence would fight foes with a combined record of 77-4, coming up against Phil Lo Greco, Chris Van Heerden and Alenjandro Barrera, all of whom were stopped in TKO fashion. It was now that the wider boxing public was starting to take note of the only boxer in the U.S. Olympic team of 2012 to win a medal. ESPN announced him as their ‘Prospect of the Year’ doing much to boost his popularity. Shortly afterwards he was announced the Sports Illustrated ‘Prospect of the Year’ too cementing himself as one of the hottest young boxers in any division of the sport in 2015.
It was at this stage of his career that he was to face arguably his toughest test to date. Coming off two losses in his last three bouts, against the Filipino Congressman and future Hall of Fame boxer Manny Pacquiao, as well as British star and two weight world champion Amir Khan, Chris Algieri, was to be the meter by which Errol Spence Jr would be measured for the first time.
The New Yorker had faced Manny Pacquiao in defence of his WBO Super Lightweight title, whom he won off one of boxing’s pound for pound hardest punchers the ‘Siberian Rocky’ Ruslan Provodnikov. Pacquiao canvassed Algieri a total of six times in the bout, but could not finish the job and secured a dominating unanimous decision victory. Algieri’s fight with Amir Khan would turn out o be more competitive, with the New Yorker boxing effectively on the front against the extremely fast and accurate punching of Khan. Some commentators had Algieri winning by the final bell but the judges scored it unanimously in favour of Khan.
On the 16th of April 2016, a date was scheduled for a bout between Algieri and the hot prospect Errol Spence Jr. ‘The Truth’ started the round fast looking to make a statement throwing hard punches at Algieri in the first round. By the second he was forcing Algieri onto his heels with hard punches and pushing him backwards inside the clinch, intelligently tying up Algieri’s arms and landing leather with his free arm. Hard uppercuts thudded against the body of Algieri who buckled at the knees on more than one occasion.
The pressure applied by Spence was not let up by the third round as he continued to tattoo the midriff of Algieri with uppercuts and hooks, each one landing with a thud announcing it had struck home. He started the fourth round up on all the judges score cards 30-27. At the beginning of the round both fighters exchanged left hooks but it was Spence Jr’s menacing left hook that landed on the chin of Algieri, who had never been stopped before. It caused him to take a step backwards on rubbery legs before collapsing forwards in disarray. After mouthing an expletive, he willed himself to his feet and beat the referee’s count to continue fight and survive his way through the 10-8 round.
But for all his courage displayed, at the start of the fifth, Spence caught Algieri out of his boxing stance landing a thunderous southpaw left that rocked Algieri’s head back, the momentum of which carried him hard to the canvas half way across the ring. In a gritty display of guts, Algieri rose but after only a few moments had elapsed Spence Jr had pounced on his wounded prey, landing a concussive left hook at the back of a combination that sent Algieri to the canvas for a third and final time as the referee waved the fight off. The former Olympian had done in tremendous fashion what two greats of boxing had not managed to achieve, and only a few months after being crowned ‘Prospect of the Year’ he had proven himself worthy of competing at an elite level.
Four months from that night, Spence Jr is going to be facing tough veteran Leonard Bundu in an IBF world title eliminator. Bundu, originally of Sierra Leone, is now plying his trade from Italy. Well known on the European circuit as a rough customer, he is a come forward brawler who if lose focus will make you pay immediately. He comes with a ‘treat him without adequate respect at your own peril’ reminder for he can be out boxed if fought correctly but lapses of concentration will be mercilessly punished. Former 2008 Olympian, Frankie Gavin of Birmingham, England, fell into the trap of taking his opponent lightly and paid the price fighting Bundu’s fight, taking too long to get into his rhythm and not being able to force back the teak tough slugger till eventually losing a split decision.
However it must be stated that for all his toughness and fitness, Bundu is now past the age of 40. Although he is a late bloomer, he has not found the same success on the world level as he has on the European stage. He lost a unanimous decision to the Keith Thurman who out boxed him convincingly, remaining patient and at all times aware of the awkward Bundu, whilst also earning his respect with hard clubbing punches that landed on head and body.
Defeating Bundu is well within the grasp and abilities of Errol Spence Jr and will only act as the stepping stone to a shot at a world title. He will be up against a fighter almost 20 years his senior in a sport that does not allow fighter’s to age with grace. His pin point punching and ability to strike hard through the target will likely cause Bundu problems from as early as the first round, who will undoubtedly look to capitalise on the aggressive start of Spence Jr by looking for that one shot to end the night. I highly doubt it will happen for Bundu, and Spence will add his 21st win to his record. It may provide him some lessons against a tricky and experienced veteran of the ring but ultimately his goal will be to defeat Bundu in style and earn himself that shot.
You can watch the fight live on NBC via Premier Boxing Champions on Sunday 21st of August
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