In a bout that could very easily be remembered as one of the fights of the year, Leonard Bundu (31-0-2, 11 KOs) successfully defended his European welterweight championship with a split-decision victory over young challenger Frankie Gavin (19-1, 12 KOs).
The fight essentially had two neatly demarcated halves, with the first five rounds and change a great display of Bundu's deft footwork and Gavin's smart upper-body movement. After the southpaw Bundu knocked Gavin down in the middle of the contest, it became a thoroughly entertaining, high-paced offensive display.
Here is the scorecard from the fight.
Bundu has only been a pro for approximately nine years, but it was clear he has incredibly refined instincts sharpened by a wealth of amateur fights. Still, age doesn't wait for a boxer to get settled as a fighter, and it was tough for the 39-year-old to deal with Gavin—also a southpaw—in the early rounds.
He did a decent job of walking Gavin down and looked to be the aggressor in the first four rounds, but the boxer from Birmingham—spurred on by a raucous crowd in Wolverhampton, England—kept his preferred distance, using his jab to hold off Bundu and quickly following with short lefts and hooks.
BoxNation liked Gavin's chances early on:
3/12 The fight's starting to open up, allowing @frankiegavin1 to find a little room to box - taking that round over Bundu— BoxNation (@boxnationtv) August 1, 2014
However, he wasn't landing nearly as many shots as he would have liked as Bundu burned through his reserves of energy bouncing around the ring on the balls of his feet, hardly staying in one place for more than a few seconds.
Gavin landed a handful of great body shots in the fifth round, and it looked like he might've been able to turn the tide of the fight thanks to his improved conditioning.
The good tidings didn't last long, as Bundu landed a devastating body shot that sent Gavin crumpling to the mat in excruciating pain, as if the elder boxer had sent a jolt of electricity through his body and left him to convulse on the mat.
Boxing Scene's Shaun Brown noted Bundu's celebration after the blow:
Bundu celebrated that knockdown like he won a teddy bear at the carnival.— Shaun Brown (@shaun_brown) August 1, 2014
Gavin barely got back up in time, only to quickly become reacquainted with Bundu's gloves. The Italian fighter was out for blood and came pouring forward. He clearly wanted to end the fight in the sixth, but the bell bailed out a reeling Gavin.
Gavin fought back valiantly in the seventh round, painfully aware of the fact he needed a knockdown or several clear-cut rounds in a row to make up ground on Bundu after that unfortunate knockdown. Both pugilists traded blows with a new ferocity; the caginess that characterized the first few rounds was gone.
The bravery and technical ability on display brought the crowd to their feet at the end of each round following the knockdown.
Bundu—calm in his corner but an absolute menace on the canvas—kept unloading on Gavin in the later rounds, showing a higher work rate after the knockdown. However, his accuracy began to fail him, allowing Gavin to sneak in some excellent counterpunches.
Gavin refused to back down, and he was was able to get plenty of strong shots on Bundu even though he got caught in the corner a few times.
Brown still had Gavin ahead late in the fight:
Dunno what Gavin was doing at that army base but it's getting him through this period. Still got him one up. 76-75.— Shaun Brown (@shaun_brown) August 1, 2014
He proved to be a very tricky fighter, but Bundu got in some excellent combinations with Gavin on the ropes that clearly swayed the judges' decision in the end. Gavin deftly avoided Bundu's jab in the 12th round and landed some excellent punches as the crowd roared in his favor, but it proved to be too little, too late.
Gavin exited the ring in a huff as soon as Bundu's name was announced as the winner. He quickly took to Twitter to apologize for his actions and explain his thought process:
Sorry for how I acted. I thought I Won— Frankie Gavin ₯ (@frankiegavin1) August 1, 2014
Gavin does have a case considering his ability to come back after that titanic knockdown, but Bundu landed a few more effective combinations over the final rounds even though his accuracy was rather spotty. The entertaining bout should bring more attention to Bundu, as he showed an ability to compete with a much younger boxer who ranks very highly on the European circuit.
Gavin could have definitely taken the title if it weren't for the knockdown in the sixth. A rematch could very well be in order, possibly by popular demand.