Friday, June 09, 2023  |


Funeka most intriguing fighter of night

Fighters Network

Going into the tripleheader on Saturday night in Sunrise, Fla., on HBO, who would’ve predicted that unknown Ali Funeka would emerge as the most intriguing figure?

The tall, lanky South African, fighting outside his home country for the first time, gave Nate Campbell hell for 12 solid rounds before coming up just short in a questionable majority decision.

Of the three fights, that was by far the most interesting as Alfredo Angulo stopped game, but overmatched Cosme Rivera in five rounds, and Sergio Martinez and Kermit Cintron fought to a dubious majority draw.

Here is my ranking of the performances of the six fighters in the featured fights:

1. Nate Campbell (33-5-1, 25 KOs): The former lightweight titleholder, who lost his belts on the scales Friday, had no idea what to expect from the unknown Funeka and had to cope with a six-inch height disadvantage. Still, he fought with the kind of confidence that comes with experience and with great passion. He seemed to be on the verge of taking Funeka out when he knocked him down in the second round with a big overhand right but Funeka both survived and then thrived. Campbell banged to the body from beginning to end and continued to throw the right but seemed to be outworked by the surprisingly slick South African. Still, Campbell kept coming. He finally put Funeka down again in the 11th with another right and then won round 12, which earned him the victory. Now, we’ll see how he does at 140 pounds.

2. Alfredo Angulo (15-0, 12 KOs): The unbeaten slugger from Mexico did exactly what he was expected to do: dominate an overmatched opponent. Angulo showed considerable poise after he was badly cut over his right eye in the first round, a cut that turned out to be Rivera’s only hope of winning. Angulo remained utterly calm, though, and methodically broke down his smaller opponent with heavy, accurate punches before stopping him in the fifth round. He looked fearsome, although one shouldn’t read too much into a fearsome performance against a smaller fighter who takes a fight on four days notice. Angulo’s original opponent, Ricardo Mayorga, undoubtedly would’ve given him a more significant test.

3. Ali Funeka (30-2-2, 25 KOs): The guy has never fought outside his own country, he’s facing one of slickest veterans around, he gets knocked down twice yet somehow he’s in the fight until the bitter end. Clearly, he’s a very good boxer, has good pop on his punches and is resilient. Campbell landed dozens of punishing body shots yet Funeka seemed to stand up to them, although they might’ve played a role late in the fight. Had he not be knocked down twice, the fight would’ve ended in a draw. He poured so much into his effort that he broke down in tears after the decision was announced. Not to worry: The guy has a future. “He’s tough, durable, strong, can take a shot. His day will come,” Campbell said.

4. Sergio Martinez (44-1-2, 24 KOs): First of all, Martinez won the fight. The decision was horrible. That said, the Spain-based Argentine was hardly spectacular. Obviously, he’s a good, confident boxer, is quick-handed and has some sting in his punches. Cintron thought the punch that put him down in a bizarre seventh round was a head butt, indicating just how hard Martinez can bang. He controlled the fight almost from the beginning, winning at the very least seven of the 12 rounds (which would’ve been a two-point victory). However, he wasn’t the fighter who looked like a budding star in his dominating knockout of Alex Bunema in October. He looked like a good all-around fighter – but nothing terribly special. And, remember: Cintron went up a weight class to fight him.

5. Cosme Rivera (31-12-2, 22 KOs): The capable veteran from Mexico was on a suicide mission. And he approached it bravely. He took the fight on four days notice and was outweighed by 15 pounds at fight time by one of the fastest-rising, most-feared young stars in the sport. Yet he didn’t roll over for a second; he came to fight and actually gave Angulo a little trouble early on. However, Angulo’s size, power and aggression quickly wore Rivera down to a point where he was taking brutal punishment. In the end, he was too brave for his own good. The referee should’ve have stopped it much sooner than he did. It was only the second time in Rivera’s career that he was stopped.

6. Kermit Cintron (30-2-1, 27 KOs): The former welterweight titleholder, who took the fight on short notice, came to life somewhat after it appeared he was knocked out at the end of the seventh round. That’s about all one can say for him, though. Overall, he seemed to lack fire; he looked flat. Perhaps he was sluggish at 154. Or maybe he was baffled a bit by a quick, skillful southpaw; he wouldn’t be the first one to struggle with such a lefty. It might’ve been both. The bottom line is that he didn’t look good, meaning he probably didn’t help market himself for the future. One thing seemed certain: He was extremely lucky to walk away with a draw.

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]