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Wainwright Weighs In: Sebastian Fundora changes the junior middleweight landscape

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If you ran into Sebastian Fundora in a shop or a restaurant, a professional prizefighter is probably the last thing you’d think he is.

He stands 6-foot-6, and he is all arms and legs. He somehow makes the junior middleweight limit of 154-pounds and it’s not a struggle for him.

He works diligently alongside his sister, Gabriela, who holds the IBF female flyweight title, at their father, Freddy’s, gym in Coachella, California. That dedication saw him win 20 of his first 21 fights, the lone blemish being a draw with the tricky Jamontay Clark.

The 26-year-old southpaw was first seen as something of a novelty, but he improved and scored impressive wins over power-punching Nathaniel Gallimore (KO 6), Mexico’s Jorge Cota (TKO 4) and previously unbeaten Sergio Garcia (UD 12) to advance his career.

His proving ground was a war with Erickson Lubin, who he out-willed and forced his talented opponent to retire after nine eventful rounds.

Fundora is fun and fan friendly, he likes to get inside and exchange often giving up his height and reach (some 80 inches) which is more than the reach of our current Ring, IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.

However, just as we started to buy into his talentes he hit a road bump in April 2023. He dominated iron-jawed Brian Mendoza through six rounds and appeared en route to victory, when out of the blue he was caught by a thunderbolt he didn’t see and was dumped on the seat of his pants. He was unable to recover and was stopped for the first time in his career.

Sebastian Fundora (right) keeps Tim Tszyu at bay with a long jab – Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images

He didn’t fight for the rest of the year, electing not to invoke the rematch clause. He had been tabbed to face Serhii Bohachuk on March 30. It could have been a firefight with both combatants only knowing one way of fighting. It wasn’t to be, and when Keith Thurman pulled out of his fight against Tim Tszyu with a bicep injury, Fundora got the call. He answered, and with less than two-weeks notice he was in the main event.

It looked a big ask, too much in the eyes of most, to go up against the surging Tszyu, who enjoyed a breakout 2023.

Tszyu started fast, snapping Fundora’s head back with a sharp right hand in the opening round. It looked like it may be a short nights work for the impressive Australian. He dominated the early exchanges but Fundora didn’t wilt under the early fire and hung tough.

The fight irrevocably changed momentum into Fundora’s direction due to a cut suffered by Tszyu in the second round, when he dipped and caught an elbow that opened up a horrific cut on his scalp that bled profusely for the remainer of the contest.

It was interesting to hear one of the best cut men in the business, Jacob “Stitch” Duran give his comments.

Fundora, who entered the fight a 4/1 (+400) underdog, boxed smart and actually spent time on the outside where Tszyu battled fiercely to see but largely couldn’t.

At the end of the fight it was close but Fundora (21-1-1, 13 knockouts) was given the nod 116-112, 115-113, while the remaining judge had it 116-112 for Tszyu, who drops to (24-1, 17 KOs). The victory saw Fundora collect the WBO title and vacant WBC championship.

According to CompuBox the aptly nicknamed “Towering Inferno” landed 194 of 721 for a connect rate of 26.9, while Tszyu was more economical but landed slightly less with 175 of 400 punches for a connect rate of 40.8. Interestingly and quite possibly key to the win was Fundora landed more jabs in every round than Tszyu. Overall Fundora landed 93 jabs compared to his opponents 39.

While it’s hard not to feel for Tszyu, who looked in charge in the early going until the cut, you can’t help be pleased for Fundora, who is now primed to jump from The Ring’s No. 4 to No. 1 behind Ring champion Jermell Charlo, who may not return to 154-pounds.

And just like that the playing field has changed at 154. All roads went through Tszyu, now you need knock on Fundora’s door.

Former unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. was on hand entered the ring afterwards to stake his claim.

Tszyu has a rematch clause, and Fundora’s representative (the venerable Sampson Lewkowicz) has made it clear they are happy to honor that next if that is what Tszyu elects to do.

Meanwhile the WBO were quick on the trigger to issue their directive, and for Fundora to face pound-for-pound king Terence Crawford

For now, Fundora has earned a well-deserved rest after a taxing battle, but it’s clear that when he returns he won’t be short of offers.

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].

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