TALES FROM THE KRONK: K9 STILL BARKING FOR BREAKTHROUGH FIGHT
By Doveed Linder
Fresh off his seventh round TKO win over former two-division champion Cory Spinks, IBF junior middleweight champion, and also the latest champion from the Kronk gym in Detroit, Cornelius “K-9” Bundrage (32-4, 19 KOs) discusses his experiences in boxing over the years and his desire to face Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in September.
K-9 BUNDRAGE: “I grew up down the street from Kronk. It was the only recreation center in my neighborhood. I used to go there and play basketball and baseball. One day, the news people were outside. They were there to interview some boxer. I went down to the boxing room to see what was going on, and I saw this tall, skinny guy with Jheri curl. That was Tommy Hearns. I didn’t even know who he was at the time. There was another guy there named Marlon Thomas. He was just a kid and he was knocking out all men down in the gym. There was another guy named Arthel Lawhorne. He fought Ray Mercer before. If you hit Arthel, he would just cuss at you and hit you back. It was like he didn’t even feel it. I saw guys like Jimmy Paul, Ricky Womak, Mark Breland, Michael Moorer, Milton McCrory, Gerald McClellan - all of them. The wars down in the old Kronk were better than the fights you see on TV. As a kid, I was always scared to talk to Gerald McClellan. When he got out of the ring, it was like he was mad at the world. He always had this mean look on his face. I was like, “I’m staying away from him!”
I boxed at Kronk for about two weeks when I was eleven. All I wanted to do was spar, but the coach made me hit the heavy bag. Hitting the bag was boring to me, so I stopped. When I was fourteen, fifteen, I used to box the kids at school. At lunch time, me and my friends used to put on boxing gloves and see who could beat who. When I was older, I boxed in the streets and I got a reputation in my neighborhood as a good fighter. After a while, this guy named Billy Summers heard about me. This guy had money. One day, he came rolling up in a Benz. It was like a movie. He said, “What’s happening, man? Can you fight?” I was like, “Yeah, I can fight! I can beat Mike Tyson!” I meant it, too. I never lost a fight before. Billy Summers asked me to fight for him. He started a boxing team called One Punch Boxing Team and he paid me $100 a week to train and $200 every time I got a first round knockout. I had a lot of first round knockouts in the amateurs, because I wanted that green. I wanted that cabbage. After a while, I saw that these pros were getting paid thousands of dollars to do what they do. I was like, “Forget this. I’m going pro.”
A couple years after I turned pro, I started training at Kronk. I didn’t really have a trainer at the time. I basically just tried to fight like Mike Tyson. I still do some of the things that Tyson did. I’m aggressive, but I can also box. I can make adjustments. I’m a smart dog. That’s why they call me “K-9”. I can sniff out a bomb if I have to. At Kronk, you didn’t even need a promoter or a manager to get a fight. They had a phone down there and people would just call up looking for fighters. One time, I picked up and they asked for a junior middleweight. There were two junior middleweights at the gym. There was me and there was this other guy who was a southpaw. They didn’t want the southpaw, so they gave me the fight right there on the spot. That was my first ESPN2 fight. One day, Emanuel Steward called down there. I picked up and I knew it was him, because he had that unique voice. I said, “Is this Emanuel?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “This is K-9. Do you know who I am?” He said, “Oh, yeah. I know you, K-9.” I got to be cool with Emanuel. He got me a fight on the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson undercard. That was June of 2002 and it was the first time I ever rode on an airplane. My career was stalled for a while because I was scared to fly, but since this was a Mike Tyson fight, I had to do it.
My first loss came in 2005 against Sechew Powell. I was 21-0 at the time. Before the fight, this promoter told me he’d give me $10,000 if I knocked him out in the first round. When the bell rang, I went out there all excited and I got dropped. I had never been dropped before. I got up too quick and my equilibrium was off, so the referee stopped it. My career saw a lot of ups and downs along the way. I had a lot of good exposure from “The Contender”. I lost to Joel Julio, but I came back and beat Kassim Ouma. After I lost to Grady Brewer, I went over to Germany and knocked out the undefeated European champion Zaurbek Baysangurov. As it turned out, losing to Grady Brewer was a blessing in disguise. If I had beaten him, I never would have fought Baysangurov and gotten the number one ranking in the IBF. That meant I was Cory Spinks’s mandatory. There were some problems with the IBF at the time and it looked like I might not get the fight, but Emanuel Steward helped me out. He became my manager and he talked to the IBF and got me my shot. I knocked out Cory Spinks in his hometown and became the next champion out of Kronk. In my next fight, I had a rematch with Sechew Powell. I beat him on points and proved that the first time was a fluke. A week and a half ago, I defended my title for a second time by knocking out Cory Spinks again.
For my next fight, I want to face Saul Alvarez on September 15th. It’s the fight that makes the most sense. We’re both champions, so let’s unify. I’m at the park right now with my buddy Pete. We’re about to go for a run. Pete isn’t even a boxer, so if he can go four or five miles, I can go seven or eight. I like to be pushed. I want to be the best I can be. I want to fight the best and let people know that through God all things are possible. On the wall at Kronk, there are names and pictures of all these champions – Tommy Hearns, Ray Leonard, Milton McCrory… I told Tommy Hearns that he is one of the greatest, but Cornelius “K-9” Bundrage is the latest. I don’t really care about getting my picture on the wall though. I’ve already made history. I’m a world champion and I’m still hungry. I’ve got a book coming out later this year. It’s called “Don’t Bark If You Can’t Bite.” Also, you can follow me on Twitter at k9boxing. I have to put my work in now, so I hope I’ll see you on September 15th when I fight Saul Alvarez. And I hope that God is good to all of you the way he has been good to me.”
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