“Been a lot of places, but I'm Brooklyn's own.”
—Jay-Z, in the hip hop classic “Where I'm From”
Shawn Carter, rap mogul and boss of ROC Nation, is in fact from the beefy borough of Brooklyn. Since “Jigga” forayed into boxing a few years back, he has yet to stage a major event- where he's from.
But this Sunday, August 21 at Ford Amphitheater in Coney Island, Lou DiBella, fight promoter extraordinaire and founder of DiBella Entertainment, will showcase the continuation of both boxing and Brooklyn's renaissance on NBC.
Hailing proudly from Brooklyn himself, DiBella easily chose the restored Coney Island, in part, because of the modern Ford Amphitheater, but also because of its groundbreaking TV potential in many respects.
This is not a facile effort to put boxing or Brooklyn back into the mainstream sport's lexicon– this is real. It is an honest attempt to return a sport and a famous borough back to its glory days, when boxing was as American as apple pie.
Brooklyn's Barclays Center has been responsible for epic fight events as of late, evidenced by recent cards featuring Carl Frampton vs. Leo Santa Cruz on July 30, and Keith Thurman vs. Shawn Porter on June 25.
DiBella's latest iteration pits rising welterweight star Errol Spence Jr (20-0, 17KOs) against grizzled veteran Leonard Bundu (33-1-2, 12KOs) in a title eliminator for the right to challenge IBF champion Kell Brook.
No one expects the 41 year-old Bundu to beat what many keen observers view as the heir apparent to Floyd Mayweather and perhaps the next generational star at 147.
Just how good is the 26 year-old Spence? Since Olympic disappointment at the 2012 games, he made that abundantly clear against none other than Mayweather in early 2013, when “Money” spent some time with him to prepare for Robert Guerrero.
According to those who witnessed a spirited sparring session between them, Spence reportedly rocked and dropped Mayweather, prompting an angry Floyd to clear the gym for a private battle.
All he's done since is destroy anyone in his way on a path to greatness. In a network TV appearance this past April on Premier Boxing Champions, Spence annihilated Long Island's Chris Algieri via 5th round KO.
It put all elite 147 lb fighters on notice, as Algieri had (from this estimation) been robbed against Amir Khan in May 2015. Just a few months prior to that, Algieri went the distance with Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao.
Pacquiao had Algieri all over the dance floor in China, getting him tipsy enough to fall 6 times– once from Pac's iconic straight left just as his then trainer Tim Lane offered to HBO's Jim Lampley that he was “letting him out of the cage.”
The force of Spence's blows were demonstrably harder than Pacquiao's. If Spence stops Bundu in Coney Island on NBC, he will have usurped the performance of WBA welterweight champion Keith “One-Time” Thurman, who didn't look good while earning a 12-round UD over Bundu.
The aforementioned Brook has decided to take a gargantuan risk by challenging middleweight beast Gennady “GGG” Golovkin on September 10 at O2 Arena in London. Should Brook do the seemingly impossible and beat Golovkin, Spence's path to a world championship would be clearer, as Brook's return to 147 would be unlikely.
I believe Triple G will potentially ruin Brook forever, making him mere cannon fodder for Spence if he does go back down to defend his welterweight title. It is but a few reasons why the Bundu fights makes a lot of Spence. Let's hope the U.S. men's basketball team claims gold in Rio on NBC just prior to this telecast that follows.
Personally, the most intriguing bout on the card features Brooklyn's own Heather “The Heat” Hardy (17-0) vs. Shelly “Shelito's Way” Vincent (18-0) from Rhode Island. As New York and New England rivalries go, this one is testier than that which exists between the Jets and the Patriots. It is also the biggest fight for women's boxing in recent memory, and could single-handedly usher in a new network TV era for female practitioners of the “sweet science”. Whatever you do, find a way to tune into NBCSN for what promises to be a ridiculous grudge match. This bout, taped from earlier in the afternoon, will air after a 9 PM ET kickoff. Outside of riding the legendary “Cyclone”, it should be the biggest thrill on Coney Island this weekend.