AFTER a satisfying victory over Lee Purdy in December, European welterweight champion Leonard Bundu, 30-0, (11) expected doors to open up for him at world level, but, after both a mandatory and a voluntary defence of the EBU title fell through, he finds himself in the same situation he was six months ago: he has to travel to the UK to defend his belt in the opponent’s backyard. British and Commonwealth champion Frankie Gavin, 19-0 (12 ), is the new mandatory challenger and presents the champion with a different set of questions from Purdy, questions that Bundu is more than eager to answer.
BN: You took the Purdy fight in December to break a long period of inactivity and hoping to create new opportunities but you haven’t fought since and again you are forced to travel to defend your title. What did or did NOT happen in the last six months that has forced you again in this position?
LB: I was meant to fight veteran Gianluca Branco in April as mandatory, but he pulled out because of an injury. We opted then for a voluntary defence against a late replacement but this match did not raise any interest, especially with the sponsors. In the meanwhile, Gavin became the new mandatory and it made sense to take this challenge. He is a high touted prospect and I am glad to come back to the UK where I gave a good account of myself last time.
BN: Usually, the European title is considered a platform from which to move onto a world title shot or at least an eliminator after defending it a couple of times. Why has it not happened for you? Do you present too much risk without reward? Do you feel as a victim of the politics of the sanctioning bodies? Or is it due to the lack of coverage and funds that plagues Italian professional boxing?
LB: All of the above. [Floyd] Mayweather has blocked two of the belts and does not care about rankings or mandatory defences. Ditto for [Manny] Pacquiao. At the same time, Italy is too weak politically on the world scene to give me any leverage. Last but not least, losing to a 39-year-old is too high a risk for most champions and contenders, especially as that risk is very real.
BN: How do you rate Gavin? Is it a step up from Purdy and the level of opposition you faced so far?
LB: He is a good prospect and a great technician, with an excellent and important amateur pedigree, but I think most people are looking at it the wrong way around: I am the step up for him. Make no mistakes about it.
BN: Gavin is pointing at the age difference as his main advantage in the fight. What do you have to say about that?
LB: I heard that one from Purdy before and look how it worked out for him. It just takes me longer than it used to get in top shape, but when I get there I am just as effective as I was at Frankie’s age. If anything, it only means I have way more experience and that is only one of my advantages. I am the new Bernard Hopkins. I never had a ring moniker and now that Bernard calls himself “The Alien”, I would like to become the new Executioner.
BN: Since you mentioned Purdy, Frankie also questions how much that fight took out of you. Does he have a point?
LB: It was a hard fight, a real throwback to the battles of the 50s and, to be honest, if I could go back, I would box rather than going in the trenches. But I had 6 months to recover. It’s not going to affect me at all.
BN: Gavin has a very different style from Purdy. How do you see this fight unfolding and ending?
LB: I think it will be a different affair, more tactical and with less exchanges, and I see it going the distance. Fact is I can do everything, though. If I have to box, I will box, but if he wants a fight, I will give him one no problem. Just do not count on me gassing out in the championship rounds. If that is Frankie’s only hope, then he is in trouble.
BN: Are you comfortable facing another southpaw?
LB: First of all, I am a switch hitter and, being a southpaw myself, I know exactly what to expect and, most importantly, how to counter.
BN: Where do you go if you win and where if you lose?
LB: Enough of that. Losing is not an option. It would obliterate all I did in my career and leave me nowhere to go. I am not going to lose. Period. After this, I am heading for the only open route, which is an IBF eliminator for the No.1 spot against No.2, Dan Ion. I am currently No.3. For that to happen, though, I have to wait until after the [proposed] Shawn Porter-Kell Brook fight, as Kell is occupying the first spot at the moment.
BN: How do you see that one going?
LB: After watching his fights with Alexander and Malignaggi, I think Porter is the future of the welterweight division. If had to bet my house, I would put it on Shawn, without hesitation.
BN: In the end, regardless of how you feel about Frankie Gavin, are you comfortable fighting in the UK again? Are you afraid of a home decision, if the fight goes the distance?
BN: I have to be perfectly honest: I had such concerns before the fight with Purdy. That is the reason it turned out the way it did, as I felt I had to force a stoppage. But, truth is I left positively impressed by the professionalism of the BBB of C. Also, the British crowd was fantastic. I am happy to be back. Great Britain is a marvellous country for boxing, from all point of views. I just wish I discovered it at the beginning of my career. It might have turned out different.