Funeka’s Russian farewell

Ali Funeka refused to take sceptics to heart in his fight against Uyanda Nogogo on March 17. He is one of the best fighters never to have won a major world title.
Ali Funeka refused to take sceptics to heart in his fight against Uyanda Nogogo on March 17. He is one of the best fighters never to have won a major world title.
Image: MARK ANDREWS

Once again a South African boxer will be honoured abroad when Mdantsane veteran Ali Funeka is given a farewell fight in Russia towards the end of the year.

Funeka, who dramatically retired from boxing at the age of 41 citing a constant fight with SA boxing authorities, confirmed that plans were at an advanced stage to engage in one last bout to bid farewell to his illustrious boxing career of 24 years.

“Yes, there are such plans but I am surprised you already know about them because I spoke about this with my international agent,” Funeka said when Daily Dispatch contacted him.

Funeka is considered one of the best boxers never to win a major world title, failing three times through judges’ decision. The boxer admitted that it pained him to be recognised in another country rather than his own.

He lost a highly debatable decision to American Nate Campbell when he challenged for the world lightweight title in February 2003 when Campbell came in overweight.

He was given another opportunity nine months later to contest for the vacant IBF title which had been stripped from Campbell for being overweight.

Funeka ran rings around the Dominican Republic’s Joan Guzman, winning almost every round only for the judges to score the fight a draw in an outcome that received worldwide condemnation by the boxing fraternity.

The IBF ordered the two boxers to fight again and this time Guzman borrowed a trick from Campbell by coming to the fight woefully overweight and earned a split decision.

Despite failing to win a major world title, Funeka shot to prominence due to the performances he put forth.

He settled for the IBO welterweight title, beating Russian Roman Balaev before losing it in bizarre circumstances to Tsiko Mulovhedzi when his legs dramatically wobbled, fuelling muti use allegations.

Calls for him to retire began to surface but Funeka has been able to bounce back when he has been written off.

As he took bouts abroad, mostly in Russia against that country’s rising stars, Funeka’s battle in the boardroom with local authorities proved more daunting than fights in the ring.

“I just could not take it anymore. Every time I am about to fight I am subjected to demoralising bureaucratic red tape which only serves to frustrates me,” he said in his retirement statement.

In one of his fights in Russia, Funeka left without a clearance from Boxing SA with the national regulatory body even trying to block him from participating in the fight.

While he is adamant that he has officially retired, Funeka does not rule out a farewell fight here at home after his Russia sojourn.

“If I were to be approached and given what I deserve I would seriously consider also having my farewell fight and do a proper goodbye to my fans here at home.”

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