By Don Steinberg
Henry Lundy is a lesson in the tremendous value of not being boring.
Purely on paper, he's not the most obvious guy to deserve the next title shot against WBO light-welterweight champion Terence Crawford, an opportunity he gets in the main event in the Theater at Madison Square Garden on February 27.
Crawford is unbeaten, 27-0. Lundy has a solid record (26-5-1) but two L's in his last three fights — and the win really was a confidence builder against grossly overmatched Carlos Winston Velasquez.
Listed at age 32 (he says he's 31), Lundy is entering journeyman territory. He has dropped a close decision to Carlos Beltran, whom Crawford dominated. Lundy lost by split decision to Thomas Dulorme; Crawford blasted Dulorme in 6. Crawford has height, reach and age advantages over the challenger. The WBO ranks Lundy as its number 10 contender at 140 pounds.
But fights don't happen on paper. In the ring, Lundy brings it. He moves forward and throws hard and fast. He's fun to watch — he has landed trick punches in fights, looping his right hand behind his back to throw it from the left side. He's a live opponent who is easy to imagine as a legit threat to Crawford.
“He's a showman in the ring, he's a showman outside the ring,” says Lundy's promoter, Jimmy Burchfield. “He gets knocked down, he gets up. The networks really like him. It's a lot easier than trying to lobby for a boring fighter.”
“He comes to fight. He doesn't dog it. He's in your face. People at HBO think he's got a real chance to win,” says Harold Lederman, part of the HBO broadcast team for the fight.
Lundy himself, not the modest type, puts the same sentiments his own way: “Hammering Hank is must-see TV! HBO knows that. I put asses in the seats,” he crowed during a recent gym workout in South Philadelphia, without breaking his drumming of a speed bag.
Crawford-Lundy is an intriguing match-up. The quiet Nebraskan and the flashy Philadelphian have speed and power from both sides. Both are listed as orthodox in stance but fluidly switch to southpaw to confound opponents. The lefty-righty chess game could be an intriguing subplot. Lundy fought essentially his entire 2013 fight against then WBC #3 rated Olesegun Ajosefrom the left side — and dominated with hard straight lefts and uppercuts.
George Hanson, a Philadelphia writer and former fighter who works with Lundy's trainer Charles Ramey, suggests Lundy was chosen on the belief that he's a credible but beatable opponent. “They're taking him because they believe Hank's gonna be exciting, and he's gonna be good for 6, 7, 8 rounds, and then Crawford's gonna stop him,” Hanson says.
He suggests they're underestimating Lundy.
“You're gonna get a competitive fight,” says Carl Moretti, head of boxing operations for Top Rank, Crawford's promoter, who offered Lundy the shot. He says Crawford and Lundy “always give good fights. That's not a lot to ask for — but it's a lot to get sometimes.”
Lederman thinks Lundy should try to establish early.
“Terence in some of his fights has been a sort of slow starter,” he says. “He's looked sensational in the middle rounds against guys like Yuriorkis Gamboa, Thomas Dulorme, Ricky Burns. But he's lost a lot of early rounds, and it's a real incentive for Lundy to start quick.”
Crawford had been in the conversation as next in line for Manny Pacquiao's farewell tour. When Manny disappointed some fans by instead choosing to fight Timothy Bradley for a third time (on April 9), Crawford was in need of an early 2016 prom date for HBO. Lundy wasn't the first choice.
“[Ruslan] Provodnikov wasn't gonna be ready in time apparently,” says Moretti. “Mauricio Herrera [who beat Lundy for the NABF super lightweight title in a headbutt-shortened five-rounder last July] flat-out turned it down.”
Lundy, meanwhile, had begun 2015 in disappointment by failing to make weight for a planned 135-pound bout on ESPN. Later in the year he reunited with Charles Ramey, who had been his original trainer, after a long separation. Ramey had trained Lundy to a world ranking as an amateur and a 12-0-1 pro record before they parted ways in 2008. Lundy worked with a succession of others including Barry Hunter and Zaire Justice. The reunion got off to a slow start when Lundy lost that July headbutt fight to Herrera. It gave Lundy's promoter Jimmy Burchfield a challenge.
“I was lobbying with every 135, 140 pound fighter,” Burchfield says. “I lobbied with fellow promoters and the networks. Then Carl Moretti at Top Rank called and said ‘Might you have interest in this fight?” I said ‘Positively.'” (HBO brass involved in greenlighting the match declined to discuss it.)
Trainer Ramey is hopeful that Crawford will underestimate his fighter.
“Crawford's people, they think because he beat Dulorme and Beltran, and the two of them have wins over Hank, that he can beat Hank. But styles make fights,” Raney says.
Lundy's style is what made this fight happen and will give the Philly veteran his first world title opportunity.
“People say I talk too much, but that's my heart, that my passion,” the fighter says. “They're looking over me, and that's what I want them to do. A lot of people think he's gonna knock me out. He's gonna see fight night when I punch him in his mouth. I'm gonna let it all hang out. I'm not saving nothing.”
—Don Steinberg has written about boxing for The Wall Street Journal, The Ring, ESPN.com and Philadelphia Inquirer. His books include “Jokes Every Man Should Know” and “America Bowl.”