“I don’t understand why being a world champion is so hard. When I became a world champion, I thought it was money in the bank. It seems like I’m the same fighter from when I first turned pro, trying to make it from day to day, week to week and it shouldn’t be like that.”
So what’s on the table for “K9”? According to his manager, Emanuel Steward, on Tuesday night, “Well, right now, there’s not yet any fights. He was just offered a fight two hours ago but in the meantime, we’ve been filling out some legal papers. We put a lawyer on the situation. We were offered a fight that is not good for ‘K9’ and it’s on the same date as St. Patrick’s Day where we’ll be tied up with Andy Lee’s fight anyways. But for the most part, he’s just been on the shelf from fighting one fight a year. That’s what’s been happening for ‘K9.’”
King understands their frustrations, telling Maxboxing this past Wednesday, “I think they’re absolutely correct and I think that the game being played that has been played, I’m simply about to rectify it. I sent them a contract for three fights yesterday. So hopefully and prayfully, everything will go right. I love Emanuel and I think Cornelius is just a wonderful guy. He’s out there; he’s trying to make it and I just want to help him every way that I can to fulfill the prophecy of his dream and try to do that. So he’s going to be fighting on March 17th and then, I want to put him in with the guy from the Cayman Islands, Charles Whittaker and then I want to put him in his mandatory- the winner of January 28th when Cory Spinks and Sechew Powell fight for the elimination for the number one spot. We’ll be able to put them in, all three of them next year and maybe another big one that will come by that he could get because Cornelius has really been good.
“He’s been good and everybody’s been playing the games. They don’t want to follow the rules or whatever it is and each network was saying that they didn’t want to buy him. Yet they want to be able to put him in with whoever they think this giant killer is and I haven’t done that. They have never come through with anything, just talk, talk, talk,” said a frustrated King, who added, “The end result is he hasn’t been fighting. So now he’s got three fights lined up.”
Part of the problem is that unlike years past, King no longer has the juice he once did. There was a time he could leverage his relationship with the networks to find his lesser-known clients slots because he also represented the likes of Mike Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez and Felix Trinidad. That day has come and gone. He is now the Lion King in winter.
King says, “[Bundrage]’s a victim. I’m a victim and it’s really a situation where it’s totally unjust, unfair, but it’s for big boys. You’re not going to Sunday school. You’ve got to do what is real.” But for as unlevel a playing a field as it may be with HBO and Showtime, ultimately, it is King’s job to fulfill his contract with Bundrage and keep him active. Has he done enough on his part?
“Y’ know what? The thing is to get him out there and get him paid is two different things,” reasoned the promoter, pointing out that for a guy like Bundrage, fights on the premium cable networks will pay substantially more than a non-televised fight. “I can get him out there but when he’s sacrificed and fights, he knows the marketplace don’t bear. Nobody really knows who he was. He did a great job in beating Sechew Powell and now, what is is they will not buy him. But really, for the amount of money that just to give him out of my pocket- which I will do and which I’ve offered to do- he wants to wait to see what he can get. Plus, the fact I was working on the big deal that’s going to be out of the country and I told him that we’re trying to reel that deal in there where he’s going to get paid three times as much as he would be getting under the normal conditions of his deal.
“That’s still alive but as always, everything is crashing in these economic times everywhere and you don’t get it. So you’re talking another promise, promise, promise- but no result. But with patience, he will come out. That’s what I gave him, a three-fight proposal yesterday. The contract is in his hand.”
Bundrage and Steward have long run out of patience (Steward is still miffed that Bundrage was not put on the undercard of Tim Bradley vs. Devon Alexander in Pontiac, Michigan last January, which badly needed some local ticket sellers). The Hall of Fame trainer/manager says that his boxer’s recent inactivity “has mystified me” and also believes that King “wanted an excessive amount of options and everything” on prospective opponents, effectively killing a lot of deals.
“I signed with Don King. ‘Oh, it’s definitely going to come. It’s Don King; only in America!” said Bundrage of his original expectations in signing with DKP. “It’s just like when I first turned pro. It’s just been a whole lot of lies. There was a singer named Michel’le; she had a song called ‘No More Lies’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H93Ce1Og3HI). When asked what King continues to tell him, slipping into his best King impersonation, he says, “I love you, ‘K9.’ I love you, ‘K9’! Man, you got a beautiful family.”
To this, Bundrage responds, “So show me like you know me. Ya know what I mean?”
Bundrage is an affable sort, funny and talkative. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a friendlier disposition from anyone in his current predicament. When you ask him what he’s out there surviving against, Bundrage explains, “Being in an economy where the economy is so jacked up the way it is right now, that even with one fight, staying where I stay at, the economy is bad but in Detroit- it’s even worse. And making the money that I make for a fight, it can last me a year, maybe even two years. In Detroit, you can buy a hose for a dollar. I don’t get out here. I don’t flash. You don’t see me on [HBO’s] ‘24/7’ with all this money, talking about, ‘I’m doing this; I’m doing that’- only bread I got is a loaf of bread. I got wheat bread.”
In other words, Bundrage lives within his means.
“I don’t have a high-priced life; I don’t be at the clubs,” said the married father of two. “I ain’t throwing it up; I ain’t making it rain. I’m just taking care of my family, paying my tithes, doing what I’m supposed to do.”
Luckily, he has kids who aren’t asking for the newest Jordans.
“He wasn’t in line,” Bundrage says of his oldest son, laughing,” and he didn’t have no tent waiting for an iPhone or anything like that.” (During this interview, he interrupts our discussion by turning off the xBox, saying, “I’m going to quit whipping my sons but in this video game, I told him to put that on hold for a minute. I mean, before the batteries go dead because Don King got me no fights yet. I can’t afford no batteries.”)
Bundrage is extremely religious (as you can probably tell if you follow his Twitter feed, @K9boxing). When asked if he’s worried about rust or his career dying on the vine, he states, “I put it all in God’s hands,” adding, “I would hope people could see how good I am and it’s just not on YouTube.”
But he isn’t Job; this has soured him on the business of boxing.
“Let me tell you something; I always recommend young people when I go to the schools, talk to the kids; I tell ‘em, ‘Don’t be a boxer; just do the boxing workout,’ because the business part is so dirty. Why do you think boxing is no longer on [ABC’s] ‘Wide World of Sports.’ It’s too shady. [Editor’s note: As a program, “Wild World of Sports” ended its run in 1998.] We don’t have a heavyweight world champion in America because they’re all in the NFL or NBA. It’s too shady; it’s a dirty business. Actually, if I can be a leader in getting us a union to fight for some of our rights, because a manager, a promoter, they shouldn’t just be allowed to do whatever they want to do,” he says.
“I just wanna see him fight,” says King, who hopes his proposal will be accepted. “I wanna see him get paid. I wanna see Emanuel get paid because I think Emanuel’s one of the best trainers in the world and, plus, he’s a friend. So I wanna see things happen, even though they may realize and understand I am not to blame but like I said, he signed a contract with me. He didn’t sign with them and so if HBO or Showtime want to play this game, let them continue to play this game- we’ll see how it works out at the end of the day.”
There is a very good chance that instead of fighting for King, Bundrage and Steward could be fighting against him in litigation.
“Yes,” confirmed Steward, who is fed up. “We’ve filled out all of the papers and everything.”
FIGHT OF THEIR LIVES
This past week, I finally had a chance to watch “Fight of Their Lives,” a brilliantly produced documentary on the incredibly ill-fated bout between Nigel Benn and Gerald McClellan that took place on February 25th, 1995. Folks, this wasn’t as good as advertised- it was better. It was as high in quality, in my not-always-humble opinion, as any installment of HBO’s “Legendary Nights.” The behind-the-scenes footage and interviews were incredible and revealing all at once. By the time you’re done watching it, you’re almost speechless.
This fight and its aftermath play out like a Greek tragedy.
That said, the one thing I found peculiar were the segments involving Steward who, for much of the “G-Man’s” career, was his trainer and manager before stepping aside as the familiar disputes over money and power surfaced. Steward basically cut the interview short and was unusually uncomfortable with the subject matter and left in the middle of the taping. If you know “Mr. Kronk,” he’s one of the most accommodating men there is, regarding the media. This past Friday night, I spent a good deal of time with Steward at the Pechanga Resort and Casino where there was a “Kronk Fight Night” and I asked him about that documentary (which he still has not seen, by the way).
Well, Steward and his director of business affairs, Anita Ruiz, explained they were brought to that interview under false pretenses. The filming took place in Europe during a recent fight involving Wladimir Klitschko and the interview was set up with the belief that Steward would be talking about Klitschko’s upcoming bout. Instead, they were essentially ambushed with this subject matter, always sensitive for Steward.
He showed Matt Swider and me an old VHS tape of McClellan sparring James Toney at the original Kronk as he was showing us around his city last year while in town for Bradley-Alexander. To Steward, McClellan was one of the great regrets in his career and not just necessarily from a perspective of prizefighting. Anyone who was familiar with McClellan will tell you that during that era, he changed into a very dark and disturbed individual.
Again, if you have a chance to view “Fight of Their Lives” (produced by ITV1 in the UK), don’t miss it.
Bundrage had a lot to say during our interview, which included thoughts on The Ring magazine.
“I got respect for Oscar De La Hoya. I’m happy with what Oscar De La Hoya did for boxing and I’m happy because he’s part of the promotional team, Golden Boy, but how is it that he owns The Ring magazine and he’s able to put guys that haven’t done anything ahead of me and I’m a world champion? I look up in The Ring magazine and I’m ranked number eight. Well, the guys rated higher than me is because why? They with Golden Boy.
“It’s just crooked. If you got money, you can do what you want to do and it shouldn’t just be like that. Fair is fair; right is right. Can’t we all just get along? Tell Obama, ‘Can’t we all just get along?’”
Honestly, the only real eye-opening thing was Vanes Martirosyan at three. Seriously? What has he done to really deserve a rating that high? (and for the record, he’s promoted by Top Rank).
[Editor’s note: As of press time, The Ring’s ratings haven’t been updated in nearly a month.]
Friday night’s main event at Pechanga was cancelled by the commission’s doctor about an hour or so before the fight as Cleven Ishe had an abscess tooth that swelled up overnight. This meant Tony Harrison, who Steward is high on, had no fight...I thought that Teon Kennedy pulled away late to defeat Christopher Martin on “Friday Night Fights”...It’s still up in the air as to whether Brandon Rios will face Johnny Molina on March 3rd at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California on HBO...Yeah, so FOX is doing a “Napoleon Dynamite” animated series? Isn’t that about seven years too late? And if the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather bout finally takes place in 2014, can you say that this fight was “Napoleon Dynamite’d”?...Can the Lakers win consistently with Kobe going one-on-five so much at the end of games?...I’ll say it right now’ the ‘Niners thriller over the Saints is one of the all-time best NFL playoff games I have ever seen I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing.