Ali Funeka takes on the dangerous but unheralded Colombian-born Canadian Samuel Vargas at Powerade Centre, Brampton in Canada tomorrow (SA time).
The North American Boxing Association (Naba) welterweight title will be at stake, giving the winner an opportunity to move closer to a WBA title shot.
Funeka will be involved in his second bout on the road after his failed bid to beat Australian Jeff Horn last December.
While the six-round stoppage loss for Funeka invoked calls for him to retire, it has since been proven be premature, after Horn went on to dethrone ring legend, Manny Pacquiao, of his WBO welterweight crown.
Before beating Funeka, Horn had dismantled power-puncher Randall Bailey.
The fact that Funeka managed to floor Horn when Pacquaio could not, now speaks volumes for the Mdantsane veteran.
Which is why he is seen as a worthy opponent to pad Vargas’s fight record which at the moment is nothing to shout out about.
Vargas has lost three bouts – two of which were stoppage losses against world champions Danny Garcia and Errol Spence – even though the latter was yet to win the IBF crown he currently holds.
Besides those two names, Vargas has not really faced anyone of note.
This may give “Rush Hour” a chance to exorcise the demons he suffered in Canada when he was denied a win over Joan Guzman eight years ago.
Had the fight not been scored a draw, Funeka would now be in an ensconced category of SA boxers who were able to win a major world title.
Now the country that denied him a win can now swing his career back to world title contention if he wins.
CHANCES OF WINNING
What are Funeka’s chances of winning?
Big. Very big. Funeka has proven to be a road warrior who does not shy away from beating up opponents in their own backyard. He did it when he travelled to Russia as a sacrificial lamb to take on that country’s unbeaten boxer Viskhan Murzabekov. The Rush Hour returned home triumphant with the IBO Intercontinental belt safely tucked way in his luggage.
This has been the area in which Funeka has been found wanting on numerous occasions. When nailed clean Funeka always goes down although, he has never been counted out.
Funeka’s ‘glass’ chin has been proven to be his Achilles heel. He had the fight sewn up against Nate Campbell when he would have become the first SA boxer to win three major world titles in one bout, only for his jaw to betray him late in the fight and cost him the decision.
He was also ahead against Guzman in their return fight after the egregious outcome in Canada but again Funeka’s chin let him down when he got dropped leading to a split decision loss. He took solace from the fact that Guzman came to the fight grossly overweight. If Vargas checks his chin Funeka will more than likely oblige.
While his jaw is his undoing, Rush Hour is one of the most recuperative boxers ever seen in the SA ring. He may take several trips to the canvas but no one has ever kept him there for the full count.
Funeka has a strong sense of presence even during hazy moments in the ring. He will lurch and wobble around the ring and even go down, but you can bet your bottom-dollar that he will get up and fight.
The sight of Funeka staggering around the ring with Tsiko Mulovhedzi giving chase is still etched in the minds of those who were present at ICC in July 2015.
T his when his legs betrayed him alarmingly fuelling allegations of Mulovhedzi having used muti..
It was surreal how Funeka’s legs failed to support him without getting clipped by a noticeable punch.
Like Thomas Hearns, Macbute Sinyabi just to mention a few, Funeka has the thinnest of legs which easily buckle when he is nailed clean.
He is the perfect example of those boxers who can pitch but not catch.
Like Hearns, Funeka can box circles around a boxer but all his good work can be shattered by one punch like happened against Campbell and in the Guzman rematch.
Even unheralded free swinging Ghanaian Justice Addy managed to drop him before getting stopped.
It is hard for a boxer of Funeka’s calibre to be told to retire as his world boxing credentials can earn him a few paydays.
Furthermore, as stated above, Funeka has never really taken sustained punishment in the ring as his weak jaw always comes to his rescue.
For that reason win or lose tomorrow, Funeka now 39 years old, is best-placed to decide on whether to continue fighting or not. Unless of course he loses badly.