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Cornelius Bundrage: “The Dog is still champ. The belt ain’t going nowhere”

By Anson Wainwright


Some fighters mature when they’re young like Mike Tyson or Fernando Vargas. Others like Bernard Hopkins or Archie Moore get better with age, for instance. It’s among the latter where you’ll find 38-year-old Cornelius "K9" Bundrage, who is enjoying somewhat of an Indian Summer in his career. The Detroit native, who possesses a solid 31-4 (18) record, has never had anything easy in his career (or life in general, for that matter). He’s got where he is through sheer hard work. Finally, in Bundrage’s 15th year as a pro, that hard work paid off and he received his shot at a world title. It wasn’t an opportunity he was going to let pass him by without a damn good fight. Bundrage travelled to St. Louis as a heavy underdog to face hometown hero and former Undisputed Welterweight Champion Cory Spinks for the IBF light middleweight crown, duly knocking out Spinks in the fifth round, making him the second “The Contender” alumni to win a world title (along with Sergio Mora). Unfortunately, while one would think that was just the springboard Bundrage needed to reach untold riches in the talent-laden 154-pound division, it wasn’t the case. After months of not knowing when he’d fight next, “K9” finally reappeared in late June, a full ten months since his crowning moment. It wasn’t a gimme either; Bundrage was matched with mandatory challenger Sechew Powell, who he’d previously fought back in 2005 in a wildly entertaining affair which saw the mythical double knockdown. However, Powell recovered better going on to stop Bundrage in that first outing. Many believed Powell would again prevail; however, this version of "K9" is a very different animal, seeing off the challenge of his former conqueror, posting a wide decision. Bundrage is already back in training. Here’s what he had to say.


Anson Wainwright - You beat Sechew Powell  back in June. Can you tell us about the fight?
 
Cornelius Bundrage - I believe that going into that fight that Sechew Powell believed that since he had beat me the first time, that he was going to beat me for sure the next time. But I believe lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice and I was going to be just fine. I was going to be still the IBF junior middleweight champion. 

AW - How do you rate your performance in that fight against Powell?
 
CB – Well, I prefer to stop a guy in my fights. I didn’t stop him but I was happy to get the payback to beat the guy who beat me in [our] first fight. So I was real pleased with that performance. It was close to the biggest victory of my career because I beat the guy who gave me my first loss but at the same time, I defended my belt for the first time, so it was as big as winning a world title and as big as being on “Contender,” the reality show. 
 
AW -That loss could’ve played on your mind going in. Can you tell us how you managed that and what was different this time? 
 
CB - Oh well, you have to remember that was the past and we live in the present. What happened yesterday was yesterday. The Bible says take care of today because tomorrow has its problems and you know that was a fluke in the first place. If you look at what’s going on in the rearview mirror, it’s those guys who beat me. I’m the champion of the world now, so it was a different day for me and a different day for them.
 
AW - You’re back in the gym; any ideas when we can expect to see you back in action? Are you targeting anyone in particular? 
 
CB - I want a stay-busy fight. I don’t know who I’ll be lined up to fight. I just leave that up to God and my promoter and manager. I’ll just, you know, get in the ring and handle my business. I want to fight one of the big names. I’m champion of the world; all unifications lead to “K9” but you can’t force these guys to get to fight, so I just stay busy. Who knows? Maybe one of these guys will glove up and start fighting instead of talking so much. Well, me particularly, I would like to unify the belts. I’m the most underrated underdog. I believe I can beat any of them, WBA champ Miguel Cotto, WBC [champ Saul] Alvarez. I look forward to fighting the best. If I have to go up, if I have to go down, there’s Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather. I’m running from nobody. I’m not desperate; I’m not anxious. I’m the champ of the world. “The Dog” is still champ. The belt ain’t going nowhere. 
 
AW - It has been mentioned that Vanes Martirosyan may meet Deandre Latimore in an eliminator for your title. What are your thoughts on that possible fight and how do you see it? 
 
CB - I don’t know how the fight is going to turn out but I know neither one would beat me. A win would actually be a loss if they have to get in the ring with me. I wish them the best for that fight but not when they fight me. It’s a good thing to win but a bad thing to get in there with me. A win is really a loss...you know why that is? Because “The Dog” is coming. (barks)
 
AW - Another fight that has been mentioned for you is Pawel Wolak; that would be a very entertaining fight. What are your thoughts and comments on that fight?
 
CB – Oh, man, this guy is real fun but “K9” would beat him in round three and then his career would be done! (laughs) You see what I did? I made it into a rap just now! (laughs) It’s definitely a fight I’m interested in because [Wolak] comes to fight; I come to fight. He’s very entertaining; I’m very entertaining. You have a pit bull in the ring with a “Raging Bull.” Both of us are going forward. He’s like a bull and I never saw one of those go backwards and I’m like a pit bull and I never saw one of those go backwards either. It would be a great fight to see, worthy of HBO PPV, Showtime. It’s actually worthy of the main event. I just hope and pray we can get together. I welcome giving him the opportunity. Sometimes I’m so humble, I forget I’m the champion of the world. I always say I’m looking forward to getting the opportunity but now I look forward to giving him the opportunity ‘cause I’m the champ of the world!
 
AW - Who are the members of your team; your manager, trainer and promoter? Also, what gym do you regularly train at? 
 
CB - My manager is Emanuel Steward. My promoter is Don King. There is no better trainer in the world than Emanuel Steward. You can look at the history; he’s had more world champions out of his stable than any other trainer and currently has four world champions. He has "K9" Cornelius Bundrage. He has Miguel Cotto, Chad Dawson- he’s going to get his belt back- and [Wladimir] Klitschko and he’s still getting calls every day. Emanuel Steward manages and trains me sometimes; his nephew, [Javan] “Sugar” Hill, trains me most of the time. If I have a big fight, Emanuel Steward trains me. It depends; he gives me a lot of advice and his advice is priceless. Don King, everybody knows Don King, the man with hair stuck up! I train at the Kronk, the new Kronk. I look forward to getting my own gym real soon, probably next summer. Team “K9,” we’re coming! And last and most, I’ve got Jesus Christ. God is great. I ain’t going nowhere soon. Me being 38 is the new 22.
 
AW - You’ve only worked with Steward for the last few of your fights. How did it come up for you both to start working together and how do you think he’s improved your technique? 
 
CB - The best want to work with the best and he knows I’m one of the best. I was about to fight for a world title. I hadn’t signed with anyone. I’d been released from “Contender” which was a blessing and Emanuel Steward said even though I was mandatory for the IBF, I was getting the fight. “K9” was on “Contender” but that was a reality show, so I signed up with Emanuel Steward and he has a lot of pull, a lot of connections and then we fought for the belt. Even when you’re mandatory, it’s politics. It ain’t just what you know, it’s who you know. He gets some credit for my improvement but God gets all the credit. One thing about it, I always had the talent to be a great fighter. I just wasn’t given the time because people were busy. I had to learn in the gym, so I really developed on my own, to be honest with you. I was always a good fighter; I just needed to get that experience because I didn’t have many amateur fights. Being in the gym and changing my life, it all came to pass. 
 
AW - What are your thoughts and comments on the current light middleweight champions, the WBC’s Saul Alvarez, the WBA’s Miguel Cotto/Austin Trout and the WBO’s Sergiy Dzinziruk? 
 
CB - Well the WBO champ, he fought the WBC [middleweight] champion Sergio Martinez. If he’d won, he’d be on fire. He lost that fight, so he’s in my rearview mirror.
 
Miguel Cotto, I respect Miguel Cotto a whole lot. I just would love to have that fight. He’s one of the best and I respect him because he’ll face anybody. But personally, we work with the same guy. He’s trained by Emanuel Steward and I’m managed by Emanuel Steward. His promoter is not my promoter and these days promoters are doing business with themselves. That fight I don’t know if it would happen just because of that but I respect Cotto as a man. He will take a fight with me if it was left up to him.
 
Alvarez, I think he might still be a little wet behind the ears and that’s the reason they’re getting him more experience, even though he’s a champion. I don’t think he’s ready for me. The reason why they haven’t put him in with me, it’s ain’t ‘cause I don’t draw people ‘cause on “Contender,” there was millions and millions and millions of people watching “The Contender” when I was on it. I have respect for him too. If you can get the belt the easy way, get the easy way. If you can get the belt the hard way, you get it the hard way. I’m not mad. I’m ready for those guys to glove up. Don’t bark if you can’t bite!
 
Austin Trout, he’s kind of in my rearview mirror. He’s one of those guys I can’t really benefit too much off of. When you look at HBO, they show the champion and best fighters in the division, they don’t even show his face. I don’t know how much I could benefit off that.
 
All I recognize, to be honest, is the WBA champion, which is Miguel Cotto. WBC’s Saul Alvarez, IBF and WBO, kinda. When I was growing up, it was about the WBC, WBA and IBF. I don’t care about the “super champion,” IBC, IBO, it’s like wrestling. They’re making up belts! That’s why I explain to people in my city when they say, “Are you the champion?” I say I am the champion of the world, not the champion of the city, not the champion of the USA. I’m the world champion.
 
AW - Have you ever been in camp, sparred or trained with Miguel Cotto?
 
CB - I haven’t ever sparred Cotto. I’ve been in the same training camp with Cotto. Every time, he’d be doing his thing with his back turned to me. I’d do anything and there was a noise, he’d turn around and watch. To be honest, I don’t like to spar guys I might fight because we’d kind of know each other. I want us to get to know each other when we get paid for it.
 
AW - Could you tell us about your younger days growing up and the path you took into boxing?  
 
CB – Yeah, I had a big cousin, he took me over to the streets one day. This guy who was so big, my cousin was like, “You’re about to fight this guy?” I put the gloves on and I knocked him out. From there, I thought I could beat Mike Tyson! The streets are no joke. I sold drugs. I smoked weed. When I started putting boxing gloves on, I felt I could beat Mike Tyson. Once I went to the gym, I realized boxing was harder than I thought it was going to be.
 
AW - What do you like to do away from boxing? What can you tell us about yourself as a person and your hobbies and interests? 
 
CB - I like to just relax. I like to make my family happy. I like to make my wife happy; that’s all I want to do. I like to see my son in the morning. My dad wasn’t there for me but I’m there for him. I got two kids now. Back in the day, females kept having abortions. I want to be the best dad I can be and I want to be the best husband I can be. I’m a people person. I like for people to see me and Identify with me. "He made it. I can make it. He stopped selling drugs and look at the same type of person. I can stop selling drugs and be like that. He didn’t graduate; he didn’t give up and he’s somebody. He’s humble.” There’s nobody better than anybody else. If I can make it, you can make it. She can make it. He can make it and anybody can make it. All things are possible through God. I’m a simple man; I don’t crave the [Mercedes] Benz, the Bentleys, none of that. I can’t afford it right now but I don’t crave it right now. I’m world champion at 38 years old. I know when I get it to spend it wisely. I could be Saul Alvarez at 21 years old and rich but it’s hard to appreciate when you’re 21 years old. I appreciate everything. I paid my dues. I’m a people person. Forget the finer things in life. If my wife wants them, we can have some of those things but the economy is so bad.   
 
AW - You took part in “The Contender” in 2006. Can you tell us what that was like and how it helped you as a fighter? 
 
CB - You know what? “The Contender” is the greatest reality show ever. Bye-bye, “American Idol.” On “The Contender,” it was a real big blessing in my life and career. I had just lost my first fight and I was down and out. Everybody had turned their backs on me. It was kind of like I wasn’t being treated the same. Being on “The Contender” made me a celebrity around the world. I came to the UK and going through the tunnel and I was getting ready to fight and people were barking. I thought I was Michael Jackson. I could do a moonwalk; I was happy. It did so much for my career. The one thing about “The Contender” was it was cutthroat. You go out and you lose and you go home. You ain’t going to make that $500,000. There was so much pressure but it actually prepared me fighting for the world title so when I fought that fight [against Cory Spinks], I was used to the pressure ‘cause I’ve been on “Contender.” All the guys to this day, we’re cool, from Grady Brewer to Steve Forbes to Michael Clark. We had our differences. I mean when there’s 16 people in one house, it’s like jail. We were all trying to get that half a million; there was a lot going on at that time. I was able to inspire a lot of people.
 
AW - Which of your fights do you consider to be your best performance so far and why? 
 
CB - You know what? My best performance is yet to come. It’s hard to say my best performance because I’m 38 and as I say, it’s the new 22. I’m getting better and better. You have to remember, I’m a Christian. I love Jesus. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I pray and if God says go that extra mile, I go the extra mile. Whatever you do, do with all your might and I do it with all my might. My best performance is yet to come; I had a few good ones. I enjoy watching the fight I had with a guy from Russia (Zaurbek Baysangurov) and we fought in Germany on a [Wladimir] Klitschko undercard. I was the underdog, probably 100-1. I had just lost to Grady Brewer. God showed up in my life and even when you lose, you win because if I had beat Grady Brewer, I’d have fought for the IBO belt instead of the IBF belt and which is bigger? The IBF. When you lose and go over there in a tough spot but win and line up a fight with Cory Spinks for the world championship.
 
AW – Finally, do you have a message for the boxing world? 
 
CB - Stay tuned; the best is yet to come. Hit me on my Twitter page @K9boxing or Facebook at www.facebook.com/detroitworldchamp. Just over a week ago, a new commercial for Chrysler was released and I’m in it. From the hood to Hollywood! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sg4lSGGOfzE&feature=youtube_gdata_player) The dog is coming; I ain’t going anywhere. Thanks for all the support and keep going hard. (barks)


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