This year’s format for the show remains relatively the same except the showcased weight division is in the welterweight division. Sixteen established boxers from the United States were selected from a series of tryouts held in various cities. In each episode the boxers go through a team competition with the winning team earning the right to select a boxer to represent their team against an opponent of their selection from the other team. The loser of the bout is eliminated from the show.
The series concludes with a climactic showdown of the last two contenders fighting, with the winner receiving a $1 million dollar purse. The show also provides a great opportunity for each boxer to establish popularity and hopefully increase his and the sport’s fan base. Last year’s winner, Sergio Mora, a relative unknown before his appearance, is now a front-running candidate to challenge world middleweight champion Jermain Taylor.
Now, the boxing career of Bundrage is on the rise again after periods of inactivity. Once a promising star on the Kronk Boxing Team, Bundrage compiled an impressive 14-0 record before he ran into trouble securing fights. Detroit promoter Harley Brown, however, signed Bundrage and immediately put him in the ring on a regular basis, taking his record to a respectable 21-0. Next, Brown showcased Bundrage on the undercard of a Showtime presentation, which led to securing a fight for Bundrage on Showtime against another up-and-coming undefeated boxer, Sechew Powell (15-0).
But what was to have been the dream fight of Bundrage’s career turned into a 22-second-long nightmare. Twenty-two ticks that encompassed a hard stare down, a malicious touching of the gloves, verbal assaults, a double knockdown, missed standing eight counts, a second knockdown and the end of his undefeated record.
To Bundrage, the hardest thing to accept in his first loss was facing the people he knew. “I felt I lost their respect,” Bundrage confided, adding that “people now started giving me advice on how I should fight.”
But Bundrage, a man of strong faith and conviction, knows that what may appear as a setback on the surface may be the key that opens the door to bigger and better things. “If I would have won that fight, there is no doubt that my career wouldn’t be as good as it is now,” Bundrage exclaimed. “That fight humbled me, made me stronger, made me determined to try out for ‘The Contender.’”
Putting aside his fear of flying, he called co-manager Carlos Illinas and asked him to book a flight to New York so he could try out for “The Contender.”
In the season’s first episode, Bundrage showed he is a survivor; not the main prey in the survival of the fittest. “They all thought I was eating too much and would have to make weight,” he said. “I had to make weight, but it was weight I had to add on; not take off. So, I played along and when we would eat, I would stack up a big plate of food and take it to my room. But I would throw it in the trash and then come out with an empty plate.”
When team selections were made, no one wanted Bundrage, making him the last selection. Bundrage recited Matthew 20:16: “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” Mike Clark, who earned the spot to call out the first boxer, quickly challenged Bundrage. Clark ended up tasting the canvas in the fifth and final round, which secured the decision for Bundrage. Clark was sent home packing and Bundrage earned the right to fight another day.
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For many, fame and fortune is everything, but to Cornelius “K-9” Bundrage, its all about family. “My wife and son depend on me. It is up to me to take care of my responsibilities and boxing has given me that chance. My mother raised four kids all by herself. She deserves so much more than what she ever had. She never gave up on us so we can’t give up on ourselves.”
Call him “K-9” but never call him a “dog.”
Footnote: Bundrage’s words on his loss to Powell became prophetic last Saturday as Sechew Powell was soundly defeated by Kasim Ouma in New York, causing a major setback in Powell’s career.
Pro fight card at Meadowbrook: Pro boxing makes it’s debut at Meadowbrook Music Festival as Donofrio Boxing presents the return of former Detroit native and former WBA world super-bantamweight champion Clarence “Bones” Adams on Aug. 25. Also scheduled to appear are the Bey brothers of Olympic Boxing team fame, Mickey and Cortez, of Cleveland, Ohio. Both fighters appeared on Donofrio’s promotion at The Palace of Auburn Hills last December.
Detroit lightweight Damian Fuller and welterweight Lanardo “Pain-Server” Tyner are also scheduled to appear. Tickets are now on sale at all Ticketmaster outlets, Ticketmaster on line, The Palace Box Office, Meadowbrook Box Office. Prices are $15, $25, $50, $75, or orchestra seating for $100. Special Ringside Seating (on stage) is available by writing to Donofrio Boxing at www.donofrioboxing.com or by calling 1-800-312-0300.
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