- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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ST. LOUIS -- Tavoris Cloud may have retained his light heavyweight title, but he left the ring knowing he had been in the fight of his life.
Cloud, fighting for the first time in a year since winning a vacant belt, took a unanimous decision against mandatory challenger Glen Johnson -- the former champ -- to hang onto his title in his first defense at the Scottrade Center on Saturday night's Devon Alexander-Andreas Kotelnik undercard.
All three judges scored it 116-112 for the 28-year-old from Tallahassee, Fla. ESPN.com also had it for Cloud, 115-113.
"I had the most effective punches. I hurt you worse than you've ever been hurt," Cloud said to Johnson. "The whole world saw it, Glen.
"I was looking for my shots to get him out. In my past fights, I just go wild. In this fight, I was trying to pick my punches. Glen Johnson is a slick fighter and was able to avoid getting knocked out."
Cloud had made his name against former titleholders Julio Gonzalez and Clinton Woods, but Johnson (50-14-2, 34 KOs) was the most well-known and seasoned opponent of his career. And although Johnson, 41, did not look good when he lost a decision in his rematch with Chad Dawson in November, he looked 20 years younger when he pounded out Yusaf Mack in the sixth round in a February eliminator to earn the title shot.
He looked like a young man against Cloud (21-0, 18 KOs), too, but just not young enough.
It was a bone-crunching fight from the outset. They did not spend any time feeling each other out. They went to trading shots on the inside almost immediately. Referee Steve Smoger had nothing to do because they didn't clinch and continued to pound each other throughout the fight as the crowd cheered.
Cloud, who earned $125,000, looked like he broke though in the fifth round, seemingly hurting Johnson and making him hold at the end of the round when his legs looked a little unsteady.
But Johnson, who made $60,000, is as sturdy as the come and continued to press forward as much as Cloud, which made for a very entertaining, high-contact fight.
Cloud's left eye began to swell in the seventh round, but he laid a lot of punishment on Johnson in the eighth. Johnson, however, apparently no worse for the wear, never stopped throwing punches in the ninth, launching 105.
Remember, he's 41 years old.
Johnson opened a cut over Cloud's left eye in the 10th round, but couldn't capitalize on it.
"I believe I won the fight because I won more rounds than Tavoris," Johnson said. "He swung a lot of punches into my defense; I guess the judges were looking to give it to him. He caught me off guard. I was stunned a little bit. I was not hurt in any way where he could come throw more combinations."
According to CompuBox statistics, Cloud landed 246 of 682 punches (36 percent). He was clearly the heavier puncher compared to Johnson, who landed 254 of 883 shots (29 percent).
Cloud will now sit by and watch with interest next Saturday's title bout in Montreal between titleholder Jean Pascal and interim beltholder Dawson.
"Most definitely, I am interested in fighting Chad Dawson," Cloud said.
Bundrage destroys Spinks
Cory Spinks' weight problems, inactivity and legal problems all caught up to him in a big way as Cornelius "K9" Bundrage thrashed him before knocking him out in the fifth round to win a junior middleweight title in front of Spinks' hometown fans.
"I knew I was going to get him. It was just a matter of time," said Bundrage, the 37-year-old from Detroit who gained fame as a participant on "The Contender" reality series. "I want Manny Pacquiao next. I'm thankful I put together the best team in the world. Whatever happens next, they'll guide me."
With trainer Emanuel Steward in his corner and having waited through several postponements of the mandatory fight, Bundrage charged at Spinks at the opening bell and never really let up.
He practically overwhelmed Spinks with his punch rate in the opening minute. Although the pace slowed for the rest of the round, Bundrage (30-4, 18 KOs) was on the attack again in the second round.
He punished Spinks with right hand after right hand, knocking him into the ropes and staggering him. Spinks made it to the final bell, but barely.
"Cory was right there so I went after him," Bundrage said. "I knew I was going to get him."
Spinks' legs did not look steady and Bundrage made him pay. He repeatedly landed hard right hands and Spinks (37-6, 11 KOs), who is not a big puncher, had nothing to keep him off.
Finally, in the fifth round, Bundrage pinned him against the ropes and pounded him with overhand rights until Spinks fell through the ropes onto the ring apron.
Spinks made it to his feet, but he was in no shape to continue and referee Mark Nelson waived it off at 1 minute, 28 seconds.
"He had a staggered and dazed look," Nelson said. "He shook his head as if to say 'no,' and at eight, he stepped backwards and I didn't want his opponent to hit him again in that condition."
Spinks, perhaps concussed, claimed it was a bad stoppage.
"The referee stopped the fight, but I don't know why. I totally disagree," he said. "He didn't even hit me and I lost my title."
Surprisingly, trainer Buddy McGirt agreed.
"He's a world champion and I think you got to give the champion the benefit of the doubt before stopping the fight," McGirt said.
According to CompuBox statistics, Bundrage landed 44 of 222 punches (20 percent) while Spinks landed just 17 of 73 blows (23 percent).
"It was a good fight that could have been better," Steward said. "(Bundrage) wasted a lot of energy. He's never been in a big fight like this. We'll get with (promoter) Don (King) to see what's next, but there are a lot of great fighters in the division and I'm sure he'll get a lot of offers."
Steward also trains Miguel Cotto, who holds one of the other 154-pound titles.
Spinks, 32, had the crowd on his side, but it could not help him overcome myriad problems.
Spinks, the former undisputed welterweight champ and a two-time junior middleweight titleholder, was fighting for the first time since he claimed a vacant 154-pound belt by outpointing St. Louis rival Deandre Latimore on a split decision in April 2009.
Besides the 16-month layoff, Spinks ballooned in weight, going up to about 200 pounds. He was so out of shape when he began training for one of the postponed bouts in January that longtime trainer Kevin Cunningham quit, citing fears for Spinks' health.
And then a few months ago, Spinks was busted on a DUI charge in Vero Beach, Fla., where he was training at McGirt's gym.
Spinks' issues, combined with a hungry challenger, was a recipe for disaster.
• Cruiserweight prospect Ryan Coyne (15-0, 5 KOs) elicited cheers from the hometown fans with a one-punch knockout of former toughman fighter Warren Browning (12-1-1, 8 KOs) in the ninth round.
It had been a spirited fight, but the 28-year-old Coyne slowly broke Browning down before landing a thunderous left hand to the head that dropped Browning face first in a corner. Although he made it to his feet, he was sagged into the ropes and referee Mike England waived it off at 2 minutes, 21 seconds.
Coyne, a four-time St. Louis Golden Gloves winner, played linebacker at Missouri before becoming a professional fighter. He was best known as a participated in fourth season of "The Contender" reality series in 2008.
Coyne, known as "The Irish Outlaw." imposed himself on Browning early and dropped him with a right hand in the second round. Browning made it competitive until the big blow that ended the fight.
9hMichael C. Wright