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Sebastian Fundora-Tim Tszyu and the Fickle Finger (and Biceps … and Elbow) of Fate

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You are free to choose whatever you like as your favorite episode of Community. But if you don’t choose Season 3, Episode 4, “Remedial Chaos Theory,” you are as wrong as the judge who had Rolando Romero leading Isaac Cruz at the time of the stoppage last weekend.

“Remedial Chaos Theory” is the one where a roll of a die from a Yahtzee game determines who goes downstairs to let the pizza guy in, creating six different timelines and teaching viewers a valuable lesson about how if you alter one thing, you potentially alter everything.

This sitcom episode is hardly unique in exploring this theme. But it’s the example I’m choosing to use because I need a pop culture reference to point to “sliding doors” that neither involves the done-to-death superhero “multiverse” nor any mediocre 1998 Gwyneth Paltrow rom-coms.

Saturday night, chaos theory fully broke Sebastian Fundora’s way, while Tim Tszyu found himself in “the darkest timeline.” That’s not to say that neither fighter controlled his own destiny; all the hours invested in the gym and each man’s mental toughness very much played into their respective situations come Sunday morning.

But there was also a material element of chance pulling the strings. And for Fundora especially, there’s a sharp contrast between where his career appeared to be headed two weeks ago and where it stands now – after first a door slid open, then a scalp cracked open.

Two weeks ago, Fundora was potentially on the road to fringe-contender-at-best status. He was going to be just another fighter who had briefly flirted with championship aspirations before settling into the tier below – and, in his case, being remembered almost exclusively as a physical oddity.

In his previous fight, he was on the receiving end of one of the best knockouts of 2023, an upset defeat to Brian Mendoza that made Fundora, a 6-foot-5 junior middleweight, appear downright fragile. Nearly a full year had passed since then. Between Fundora’s needing time to recover and PBC going dark for three months after Showtime exited boxing, the image of the fighter sitting up on the canvas, oblivious to how he got there, rattled around in the boxing consciousness for quite a while.

Fundora was given the opportunity to return in a competitive (on paper) pay-per-view opener against Serhii Bohachuk – similarly, a promising, aggressive, entertaining 154-pounder who had been stopped once.

Fundora was listed at sportsbooks as a slim favorite. Maybe he would have beaten Bohachuk and gotten back on track, though such a win would have done little to change his stock because Bohachuk was regarded as neither a world-beater nor a world champion. Maybe Fundora would have suffered a second straight defeat and been resigned to also-ran status, transitioning into a gatekeeper role, a vaguely relevant name for hot prospects to add to their resume.

Then a door slid open. On March 18, word spread that veteran Keith Thurman, who was set to challenge Tim Tszyu in the main event on that March 30 PPV card, had suffered a torn biceps in his right arm. Before long, PBC confirmed the news: Thurman was out. Discussions were underway to identify the best possible replacement to save the show.

Within hours, it was official: Fundora would move from opener to main event, while Bohachuk would scoot from opener to pre-show, where he would meet Fundora’s recent conqueror, Mendoza.

Bohachuk, now 24-1 with 23 KOs, is no joke. In the center of a mostly empty T-Mobile Arena at about 4 p.m. local time, he dished out a beating to Mendoza, doing for 12 rounds what Fundora could only do for six.

Styles makes fights, as the cliché goes, but it is not unreasonable to speculate that had the die been tossed in the air and landed on a number that spared Thurman’s biceps, Bohachuk would have defeated Fundora and established a ceiling for “The Towering Inferno” at some height where he would perpetually have to duck not to bang his head.

But we’ll never know what would have happened had Fundora faced Bohachuk as scheduled. All we know is what did happen: Fundora landed in the main event of PBC’s first Amazon Prime card. And he pulled off the upset over the undefeated Tszyu as a nearly 5-to-1 underdog.

Through one round, two minutes and about 55 seconds, the twist of fate was working out horribly for Fundora. Tszyu was doing whatever he wanted, landing right hands at will, busting Fundora’s nose and outboxing and outfighting the late sub in every way imaginable. But then one of boxing’s most angular elbows accidentally collided with the top of Tszyu’s head, and suddenly we had us a slasher flick.

You know what happened from there: Tszyu, blood cascading down his face, became desperately aggressive and his skill advantage from the first two rounds went out the window. Fundora showed remarkable discipline and pumped out jabs and exchanged on even terms. Fundora, despite surely swallowing buckets of blood, became the best version of himself, and Tszyu was a cherry-coated, limited facsimile of the boxer he had previously proven to be. Fundora needed to win at least seven of the final 10 rounds, and on two judges’ scorecards he did, giving him the split decision.

Fundora, thanks to Thurman’s arm injury and his own arm injuring Tszyu, instantly became the shot caller at 154 pounds. By night’s end, he had his choice of three major names, each accompanied, one assumes, by handsome paydays for his first defense.

He could have lost to Bohachuk and been left begging for whatever TV date anyone was willing to give him. Instead, Fundora gets to ask himself: Do I want to fight Tszyu again, Errol Spence or Terence Crawford?

Alphabet bodies will do their best to dictate to Fundora, and rematch clauses may hold sway as well. But in the end, the fighter who just scored a career-defining upset win gets to weigh all the risks and rewards and choose what’s best for him. Maybe it’s a second go-round with Tszyu, perhaps in a more lucrative event in Australia. Maybe it’s a decidedly winnable fight against a possibly diminished Spence. Maybe it’s a showdown with the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world.

And while Fundora is reaping all the rewards of a pair of unpredictable lucky breaks, those same random twists conspired to screw Tszyu. In an alternate timeline, he is now 25-0, with a relatively easy win over Thurman on his record, doing his own calculations about fighting Crawford or Spence – and doing so without a cranium full of stitches.

Maybe Bohachuk lost an opportunity to beat Fundora. Or maybe he was spared a defeat at the Californian’s hands. It would seem Thurman got unlucky, although maybe he’s better off having biceps surgery than having Tszyu dissect him. Circumstances certainly broke right for fight fans, who got a gloriously gory main event, plus a solid scrap with some late drama between Bohachuk and Mendoza.

Boxing history is littered with sliding doors and “what ifs.” What if Muhammad Ali’s vision doesn’t clear up before Sonny Liston can catch him? What if Joe Cortez calls a halt to the first (and only) Manny PacquiaoJuan Manuel Marquez fight after the third knockdown of the opening round? What if Roy Jones Jr. never comes back down to light heavyweight? What if any of about 100,000 punches in the sport’s history is re-routed a half-inch to the left or right?

They’re fun thought experiments. But we only get the one timeline. And in this particular one, Sebastian Fundora’s career and life are completely changed.

If he finds himself making a speech in Canastota, New York, sometime around the year 2040, in addition to thanking his dad, his promoter, etc., Fundora will want to thank chaos theory, his own pointy elbow and Keith Thurman’s uncooperative biceps.

Actually, he doesn’t have to wait nearly that long. He can thank them as soon as he deposits his next paycheck.

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