As Errol Spence backed an unsteady Leonard Bundu into the ropes, the thousands of fans packed into Coney Island’s Ford Amphitheater could sense the end was near.
The cheers grew louder, the clapping more thunderous, and the expectation that something major was destined to transpire could not be more evident.
And then, it happened.
As Bundu began to desperately weave along the ropes, hoping for Spence to leave himself open for a counter-punch, Spence relentlessly threw bombs with each hand.
Bundu dipped his head and – boom! - he was met with a right hook from hell delivered by the young phenom Spence, who recorded his eighth consecutive knockout victory.
Bundu (33-2-2, 13 KO’s) suffered his lone previous defeat to current WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman, who Spence’s name has been linked to for close to a year now, by a unanimous decision for Thurman’s then Interim WBA strap in December, 2014.
Thurman (27-0-0, 22 KO’s) knocked Bundu down in round one, but Bundu was able to last the full twelve rounds of punishment from the hard-hitting Thurman.
Spence on the other hand, had a similar performance to his dominant display from earlier this year, a five-round TKO throbbing over former champion and Manny Pacquiao-decision victim, Chris Algieri.
Spence, for the second consecutive time, knocked out a “name” opponent who had never been knocked out previously, by perhaps the class of the division.
“Errol was more precise than Keith Thurman,” Bundu matter-of-factly said after the fight. “I really tried to get up and I couldn’t. He certainly lives up to the hype.”
While praising Bundu’s awkward style and grit in the post-fight conference, Spence recognizes his skill level, and continues to exude confidence with each passing knockout.
He’ll now stand as the top contender for Kell Brook’s IBF welterweight title.
“I thought my performance was great. I was shaky in the first and second rounds, but was able to get into a rhythm the rest of the fight,” Spence said. “Once I was able to catch his rhythm and break him down, I knew I had him. I am one of the top fighters at 147 pounds. With this performance, I proved that again today.”
With this KO victory, Spence (21-0-0, 18 KO’s) is due for a title shot this fall or early 2017. With Brook moving up two weight classes to fight opposite middleweight kingpin Gennady Golovkin on September 10, it looks as if Brook may be done at the welterweight division.
Whether he remains at middleweight or drops to junior middleweight after losing to Golovkin (spoiler alert!) next month remains to be seen, but Spence is now in the driver seat and will be ready for whatever stands in the way of him and a world championship.
“I want to fight for a title next,” Spence said. “I would want to fight Kell Brook, but if he doesn’t go down in weight, he vacates or is stripped. I don’t care, I just want to fight for the belt.”
For the man who once reportedly gave Floyd Mayweather a black-eye during a sparring session, it seems as if championship status is simply destined. It shouldn’t be too long before we find out ourselves.
Heather Hardy (18-0-0, 4 KO’s) and Shelly Vincent (18-1-0, 1 KO), who fought for the WBC International featherweight title, easily took home fight of the night, capitalizing on a rare televised opportunity for female boxers.
The only negative aspect of the fight, aside from the result if you’re a “Shelito’s Way” supporter, was the lopsided (and straight-up wrong) 99-91 scorecard of judge Bernard Bruni.
Bruni was seemingly the only individual in the arena who didn’t actually watch the fight, and being a judge, that kind of goes against his job.
But for two women to put on the fight of the night is no small feat, especially since women have already become a fixture in UFC, where in boxing, we may never see them fight unless it’s through Youtube.
Hardy and Vincent went blow-for-blow with heavy exchanges, heart-filled efforts, and a display of championship-level boxing that the crowd was very appreciative of, giving the ladies a standing ovation after the final bell.
Each side brought a legion of fans, especially the Brooklyn girl Hardy, and fans sparred with chants of “Hardy” and “Shelly” all fight long.
In the end, Hardy was just slightly better, and with WBO featherweight champion Amanda Serrano (29-1-0, 22 KO’s) in attendance, one has to wonder if the two Brooklyn natives will clash sometime soon.
If or when they do, it’ll hopefully be a televised encounter, because they’re certainly deserving of the spotlight.
Follow Bryan Fonseca on Twitter at @BryanFonsecaNY