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12 NOVEMBER 2018


Bundu And Petrucci Get It On Again

By Peter Lerner: Friday night sees the rematch between unbeaten Italians Leonard Bundu and Daniele Petrucci for the vacant European welterweight title.

Their first fight, back in July, was one of the most eagerly anticipated Italian fights in recent history. Unfortunately it proved a disappointment, being something of an edgy chess match which finished in a technical draw in the eighth round due to a grotesque swelling on Bundu’s forehead. That fight took place in Rome, Petrucci’s hometown. This time they fight on Bundu’s turf in Florence at the Nelson Mandela Forum.

The first fight and the whole build-up had been really steeped in tension. There was a lot of attention from television and the big newspapers, there was the showcase setting of the expensive new tennis stadium and that rarity of two unbeaten Italians meeting at their peak for an international prize. And of course both of them had waited so long. Not a year went by without somebody connected to either of the fighters saying, “Next up is the European title.” They did their job, they kept on winning and waiting, only to see Gianluca Branco, a good fighter and a European champion at light welter, jump up to welter and straight into a fight for the belt they had craved. He had no track record at the weight yet there he was facing Matthew Hatton for the vacant title. The same Matthew Hatton who had been comprehensively outpointed by Craig Watson. The same Watson who had been stopped in three rounds by Petrucci. So imagine the tension they must have felt – and the pressure of not blowing something that had been denied them for seemingly such a long time and perhaps would never come round a second time for the loser.

The bout never really got started. Petrucci and Bundu were edgy, trying not to take any risks, only every now and then letting go, standing in range and throwing combinations. The rounds were decided by single punches. The fight was lacking in the blood and action that people had hoped for, and despite providing a form of high drama in its own way, many observers felt it was anticlimatic. Then there was the decision itself, which provided no answers and meant that all involved were back to square one. It was if everything – the build up, the expectation, the fight – had been for nothing.

This time round could well pan out differently. Obviously they might both be more relaxed after having already done this once. They may have picked up things from the first fight that enable them to settle into a rhythm more quickly. Perhaps even more importantly is that this time they have been given a lot less attention. The anticlimax of the first fight and being sandwiched between the world title fights of Brunet Zamora, Simona Galassi, Andrea Sarritzu and Devis Boschiero have meant less media coverage, less tangible excitement and probably much less outside pressure on the fighters.

Furthermore, there are indications that both of the fighters may be preparing for a different fight – faster and much more emphatic. Bundu’s promoter Mario Loreni told Secondsout of the importance of his fighter “starting out fast and increasing the pace throughout the fight.” He felt that a win for Bundu inside the distance was a distinct possibility. At the same time there are rumours that Petrucci’s camp know that to win on points in Bundu’s backyard (he has fought four times in the Nelson Mandela Forum) he will have to bash him black and blue and are thus planning a much more aggressive fight this time round.

Both fighters have been in training since the end of the summer and there have been no rumours of any injuries or serious weight problems, though it should be noted that neither fighter makes the weight all that easily. Decent sparring has been arranged for both of them – Bundu has had the mercurial Michele Di Rocco and hardened Simone Rotolo while Petrucci has been working with undefeated welterweight Antonio Moscatiello as well as Roman fighters such as Emanuele Blandamura and Massimiliano Buccheri. In other words the two men have prepared long and well, and should be ready for tomorrow’s fight.

Like the first fight, this one is difficult to call. These two fighters are so evenly-matched technically and physically – with no great differences in speed, power, chin, accuracy, workrate or movement – that it is difficult to make a confident prediction or imagine an emphatic victory for either one of them.

Last time round the pre-fight conundrum for many was if Petrucci, more of a natural counter-puncher, could cope with a high Bundu rhythm. That scenario threatened to unfold briefly at several times during the fight but never really did. I have a feeling that we could see the opposite scenario in the second fight, with Petrucci imposing an aggressive fight on Bundu. One thing he discovered in their first fight was that Bundu doesn’t hit as hard as he feared. As his trainer Carlo Maggi put it, “I thought he would hit harder but I didn’t see it. He threw all those fast, little flurries but there was nothing on them.” Could it be that this time Petrucci will feel less wary about engaging?

The consensus appears to be that Bundu is the favourite. He has the home advantage, which, due to the anticipated roars of the crowd for everything he does, could perhaps have a slight impact on what the judges think is scoring or not. Most people think that Bundu was doing better at the moment the last fight was stopped and whereas his people have complained about the verdict, Petrucci’s camp have been much more accepting of the draw.

However, it is precisely these factors which make me lean towards Petrucci. Fighting outside of Rome is likely to lift a weight off Petrucci’s shoulders, something Maggi concurs with, “The first fight didn’t go how we wanted. Daniele didn’t really get started, he wasn’t aggressive enough. He was mentally under a lot of pressure fighting in Rome – the pressure of pleasing the huge crowd that came to see him, journalists were bothering him all the time. The day before the fight they came into the gym and asked him questions and took photos for an hour and a half. This time has been a lot better and a lot less stressful.”

The attitudes of the two camps towards the first fight give the impression that it is Petrucci who can improve more for the second fight. Loreni believed Bundu was two rounds up when the fight was stopped and was very unhappy with the decision. There is almost a sense that they thought things were going relatively well in the first fight while there is an air of disappointment in the Petrucci camp about how he performed. I believe it is that possible difference in approach which might result in Petrucci surprising his opponent with a much more decisive fight than last time out. It could be an edge which makes all the difference.

November 3, 2011

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