Boxing’s biggest paradox: 6-foot-6 Sebastian Fundora eyes junior middleweight title


It’s difficult to watch Sebastian Fundora box without focusing on his height — something the rising, undefeated contender skillfully uses to his advantage.

Dwarfed by Fundora’s long, sinewy frame, frustrated opponents often spend bouts shying away from his overwhelming reach while his body and head stay safely out of range. Seven-foot retired heavyweight Nikolai Valuev had a similar height advantage over his opposition, but the 24-year-old Fundora is anything but heavy.

Somewhat surprisingly, Fundora is ‘just’ 6-foot-6, which is certainly tall, but not uncommon in some corners.

What is uncommon —and this is why he towers over opponents — is that Fundora fights at the 154-pound weight limit. In fact, he can even get down to welterweight (147 pounds) if he wanted, which he doesn’t.

‘I definitely can do it if I squeeze myself, but again, I’m comfortable at 154,’ Fundora told DailyMail.com ahead of Saturday’s bout against 5-foot-10 Carlos Ocampo.

‘This is the weight that I walk in. This is the one I’m comfortable in.’

And therein lies the problem for opponents: Sebastian ‘The Towering Inferno’ Fundora isn’t a big fighter who starves himself down to 154, but rather, he’s a natural junior middleweight with a longer reach than George Foreman.

‘Fundora [is] a cheat code,’ WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford tweeted last April, after Fundora’s TKO win over Erickson Lubin for the WBC interim super welterweight title.

Although he’s 6-foot-6, Sebastian Fundora is capable of making welterweight at 147 pounds

Sebastian Fundora, right, punches Daniel Lewis, of Australia, during their super welterweight boxing match Saturday, February 22, 2020, in Las Vegas. Dwarfed by Fundora's long, sinewy frame, frustrated opponents often spend bouts shying away from his overwhelming reach while his body and head stay safely out of range

Sebastian Fundora, right, punches Daniel Lewis, of Australia, during their super welterweight boxing match Saturday, February 22, 2020, in Las Vegas. Dwarfed by Fundora’s long, sinewy frame, frustrated opponents often spend bouts shying away from his overwhelming reach while his body and head stay safely out of range

If making the 154-pound limit at his height is Fundora's superpower, his kryptonite might be his nearsightedness, not that he'll admit to it. He actually wears thick glasses out of the ring, without which he's left squinting. Yet, he insists: 'I don't see it as a problem'

Fundora trains in Coachella, California

If making the 154-pound limit at his height is Fundora’s superpower, his kryptonite might be his nearsightedness, not that he’ll admit to it. He actually wears thick glasses out of the ring, without which he’s left squinting. Yet, he insists: ‘I don’t see it as a problem’

But Fundora is not some boxing curiosity, like 7-foot-1 NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain’s brief flirtation with fighting Muhammad Ali in 1971.

Born in West Palm, Florida, Fundora is from a boxing family who moved to Coachella, California simply so he and his five siblings would have more opportunities in the ring. He’s not even the only undefeated pro among the Fundora clan, all of whom are trained by their father, Freddy Sr.

Sebastian’s 20-year-old sister, Gabriela, is 8-0 and will face the biggest challenge in her young career on Saturday’s undercard, Naomi Arellano Reyes (9-1).

‘They’re finally giving her a good stage to display her talent,’ said Sebastian, who admits he’ll be taking a break from his own warmup to watch Gabriela.

‘I’m definitely going to have to see that fight because it’s my sister,’ he added, calling her ‘probably the most talented in the family.’

Terence Crawford called him a 'cheat code'

Terence Crawford called him a ‘cheat code’

Like her older brother, Gabriela is tall, standing 5-foot-9, which is usually good enough for the same five- or six-inch height advantage her brother enjoys.

Such a spindly frame might lead opponents to discount the Fundoras’ power, but Garbiela has ended four of her eight bouts before the third round.

Sebastian, meanwhile, has earned 13 of his 19 wins by knockout as his budding power began to rival his height as his signature characteristic.

‘Maybe the first couple of fights it did surprise them, but they have so much footage now,’ Fundora said, when asked if he surprises opponents with his power. ‘I don’t think anyone is not expecting it anymore. Maybe they braced up for it, they don’t want to get hit with it, but it’s like the cat’s out of the bag. You can’t really not notice that anymore.’

That power was most evident in his previous fight, a signature victory over Lubin.

As Howard Cosell looks on, Muhammad Ali (center) attempts to ward off a playful jab thrown by Wilt Chamberlain just before the taping of a television show. Chamberlain, 7-foot-1 star of the Philadelphia 76ers, said he was ready to debut as a fighter. Ali, 35, who suffered his only defeat in 32 professional fights the month before to Joe Frazier, and Chamberlain, 34, made plans to fight in Houston's Astrodome on April 26 with each man receiving $1 million. Chamberlain was reported to be flying to Houston April 22 to complete arrangements for the bout, but later decided against fighting Ali

As Howard Cosell looks on, Muhammad Ali (center) attempts to ward off a playful jab thrown by Wilt Chamberlain just before the taping of a television show. Chamberlain, 7-foot-1 star of the Philadelphia 76ers, said he was ready to debut as a fighter. Ali, 35, who suffered his only defeat in 32 professional fights the month before to Joe Frazier, and Chamberlain, 34, made plans to fight in Houston’s Astrodome on April 26 with each man receiving $1 million. Chamberlain was reported to be flying to Houston April 22 to complete arrangements for the bout, but later decided against fighting Ali

Ali (left) never got a chance to box against 7-foot-1 NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain (right)

Ali (left) never got a chance to box against 7-foot-1 NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain (right) 

US boxer Sebastian Fundora (L) faces off with Daniel Lewis of Australia during the weigh-in before their Super Welterweight boxing fight at the MGM Grand Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 21, 2020

US boxer Sebastian Fundora (L) faces off with Daniel Lewis of Australia during the weigh-in before their Super Welterweight boxing fight at the MGM Grand Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 21, 2020

Until that April bout in Las Vegas, only fellow southpaw Jamontay Clark had really gotten to Fundora, as he did during their split-decision draw in 2019.

Against Lubin, though, Fundora would take far more punishment as he was suddenly crowded by the smaller fighter until he was forced to take a knee in the seventh — the first time he’d been knocked down as a pro.

But just as was falling behind on the scorecards, Fundora stepped up to cement his status as a headline fighter, out-landing Lubin 26-12 and 28-3 over the next two rounds, thanks largely to a devastatingly quick uppercut.

Ultimately, Lubin’s corner stopped the fight, but not until after their boxer’s head was a swollen, misshaped mess.

‘His face shifted from round one to round nine,’ Fundora told reporters afterwards. ‘It completely morphed and there was a lot of blood coming out.’

Fundora is currently the WBC interim super welterweight title holder after beating Lubin

Fundora is currently the WBC interim super welterweight title holder after beating Lubin

Although he prefers to fight at a distance, Fundora can mix it up in close quarters, as he did with Spain's Sergio Garcia last December in Los Angeles

Although he prefers to fight at a distance, Fundora can mix it up in close quarters, as he did with Spain’s Sergio Garcia last December in Los Angeles 

The takeaway from Fundora’s win was fairly obvious: He doesn’t need to rely on his reach to beat smaller opponents, any of whom are welcome to get close to him.

‘It’s just something I’ve been doing my whole life,’ he said. ‘The shorter fighter is always expected to come on the inside, and they usually try to, so why not invite them? Why not get good at that? So that’s what we did.’

As Fundora sees it, it’s the jab-like speed of his uppercut that makes it so dangerous.

‘Especially when they’re the ones walking into it,’ he said.

If making the 154-pound limit at his height is Fundora’s superpower, his kryptonite might be his nearsightedness, not that he’ll admit to it.

He actually wears thick glasses out of the ring, without which he’s left squinting. Yet, he insists: ‘I don’t see it as a problem.

‘I can still see the blood, I can still see the sweat, I can see all the stuff like that,’ he added, attaching some Rocky IV ‘hit the one in the middle’ logic to the situation.

So far, Fundora’s eyesight hasn’t cost him in the ring, and he could be heading for a major title shot if that continues. 

Sebastian Fundora and his sister Gabriela (8-0) both train in Coachella with their father

Sebastian Fundora and his sister Gabriela (8-0) both train in Coachella with their father 

Sebastian Fundora celebrates his win over Erickson Lubin with his sister, Gabriela, a boxer

Sebastian Fundora celebrates his win over Erickson Lubin with his sister, Gabriela, a boxer 

Gabriela, is 8-0 and will face the biggest challenge in her young career on Saturday's undercard, Naomi Arellano Reyes (9-1)

Gabriela, is 8-0 and will face the biggest challenge in her young career on Saturday’s undercard, Naomi Arellano Reyes (9-1) 

Not only does he have the resume — something a that can only be helped by a win on Showtime this Saturday in Carson, California — but Fundora also has crowd-pleasing style and growing fan base that should make him an asset to promoters.

It’s something that boxing legends are already noticing, as he learned at the Boxing Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canastota, New York earlier this year.

‘I’m excited that they recognize me,’ he said. ‘We saw people like [Floyd] Mayweather and Andre Ward, Shane Mosley, and they’re all talking to me normal, like, normal conversations.’

And it’s not just boxing insiders who are noticing Fundora, who says he’s starting to get stopped. Fans are starting to notice him on the streets, as well. 

‘They just came to me,’ he said. ‘I still get excited when I meet the fans. I try and get every picture I can. I want to be fan friendly. I don’t want to be that jerk that’s like, ”I just came here to do this thing.

‘I went to the Andy Ruiz fight,’ he continued. ‘Of course, my fight’s coming up, so a lot of people mentioned to me: ”Hey, we’re going to be at your fight.”

‘That made me feel really special.’

Sebastian Fundora celebrates his win in the third round against Donnie Marshall of their junior middleweight match at Microsoft Theater on February 16, 2019 in Los Angeles

Sebastian Fundora celebrates his win in the third round against Donnie Marshall of their junior middleweight match at Microsoft Theater on February 16, 2019 in Los Angeles

He’s hoping that title shot comes along in a year or two, and a matchup with undisputed 154-pound king Jermell Charlo seems doable, given that both fighters are signed to PBC.

Whether or not things actually play out that way is anyone’s guess.

‘The business of boxing,’ he said, ‘it’s not just up to the boxers to decide that.’

His dream is to headline a fight card with Gabriela (‘I’m fighting co-main on hers, or she’s fighting the co-main [on mine]’), but you won’t catch Sebastian looking too far down the road. He’s just 24, and while he already has some quality wins to his name, a loss to Ocampo could derail all of his professional momentum.

With a win, though, Fundora would get a few months’ break, a family vacation, and the chance to plot out his path to a title in 2023.

‘I’ve been ready for the title, but we have to stay busy,’ he told reporters last week. ‘I have to take hard fights like this to continue to grow.’

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