Ali Funeka can’t wait to get back in the ring with Zahir Raheem. Photo: Supplied
Ali Funeka can’t wait to get back in the ring with Zahir Raheem. Photo: Supplied

Funeka wants to give Raheem another chance to hit the canvas

By Julian Kiewitz Time of article published Sep 10, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - When I asked Ali Funeka why he’s giving Zahir Raheem a chance to redeem himself, the South African’s answer was straight to the point.

“I want to give him a second chance to hit the canvas again,” said the former IBO international welterweight world title holder.

For those who don’t know, it was Funeka (40-11-3) who dropped USA’s Raheem (35-3) in the fourth-round of their IBF eliminator at the Jan Smuts Stadium in East London back in 2008.

After all these years, the KO still does not sit well with “King Raheem” and he would love to get that “W” back from the former South African star who previously held the South African super featherweight title between 2004–2006 and in 2014.

“Zahir is the one with the point to prove. I was surprised to see he even went as far as doing a video to call me out,” says Funeka whose name was mentioned in a viral video of Raheem being extremely fired-up and animated - calling for the rematch.

“He has called me out and I have responded. That's why I am willing to take the rematch,” says Funeka who also won the South African junior-lightweight, WBC International lightweight, WBF junior-welterweight, South African junior-welterweight, IBO welterweight, WBO Africa welterweight titles in an illustrious career.

“When I fought Funeka, I was severely dehydrated and sleep deprived. I was not 100!” says the former Olympian and Lightweight boxing star, Raheem.

“Funeka is the only clear loss on my record. I have sent him a message via video and he replied, ‘It’s on’, so I am preparing to return to one of my favorite countries in the world,” said the 44-year-old American who last fought in 2014 against Bayan Jargal.

Raheem beat Jargal via unanimous decision, his sixth victory in a row after that loss to Funeka (the only KO loss in his pro career with two unanimous decision Ls to his name).

Funeka (42-years-old) last fought in 2019 against Abass Baraou in a bout that he lost via TKO, and he is now keen on finishing his career on a high note.

“I never thought I would come out of retirement. When I left boxing I left due to boxing politics. The passion I had was slowly dying.Then ‘boom’, there is a video from Raheem. That did something to me. It revived a spark.

I am 42-years-old, I retired last year and people still asked why on earth I retired. I had my reasons. You would remember I beat (Uyanda) Nogogo via TKO in 2019. That guy was 20 years younger than me. I believe when you are dedicated to what you do, age will never be a barrier,” says the man who is drawing inspiration from 54-year-old Mike Tyson.

The American fighter is also coming out of retirement to fight 51-year-old Roy Jones in an upcoming exhibition match between the former undisputed heavyweight world champion (Tyson) and the former four-division world champion (Jones) set to take place on November 28, 2020.

The battle-hardened Funeka has come a long way with his career which has taken him across the world and placed him on some of the biggest stages. But he will never forget where it all started for him and how boxing changed his life.

“I had the typical life of a boy growing up in the township. My introduction to boxing is a funny story, lol! We used milk containers as gloves playing amongst ourselves in the village before the boxer, Nqaba Govuza gave us gloves.

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“Boxing was an escape from gangsterism and poverty. The fact that you came from school and went straight to gym, it countered the boredom,” says Funeka who moved to Mdantsane in East London later on to stay with his aunty and her husband in the hot-bed of South African boxing.

He then joined the Philani Boxing Gym, and as they say in the classics, “the rest was history”.

“I never looked back. Boxing gave me a sense of direction. It taught me discipline and responsibility.”

Funeka has seen first hand how sport changed his life, and this is why he is excited to see Fight to Fame launch in Mzansi.

Fight to Fame is the new reality show that will see combat sport athletes from all backgrounds compete for a Hollywood production contract.

The model which is based on blockchain, movies and sport will have athletes taking part in various stunts, assessments and obstacle courses with the aim of becoming the next big action star.

The show is driven with the motivation that too little combat sport athletes are given the chance to use their skills and athleticism on the movie network - thus providing combat sport athletes with a fair chance of cracking it on the big screen. The show will also host exhibition bouts.

“Reading up on it and seeing what it does for athletes is really great. It goes beyond just the sport, it’s also opening new doors,” says Funeka who, along with Raheem, agreed to have their rematch on the Fight to Fame platform.

“The fight has to take place on Fight to Fame. Imagine being like the iconic movie star Bruce Lee. Those considering it should go in with an open mind and be willing to get out of their comfort zone,” says Funeka who is gunning for the fight to take place in his hometown of East London: “The vibe and support in East London is the best out of all the provinces.”

Fight to Fame Africa chairperson, Marius Fransman. Photo: Ayanda Ndamane

“The challenge that Zahir has thrown out to a very well-known South Africa boxer and former opponent in Ali Funeka lines up for a great exhibition event,” says former South African Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation and now Fight to Fame Africa chairperson, Marius Fransman.

“Fight to Fame will do what we can to support it so that South Africans can reconnect with boxing again. Traditional boxing is very, very strong in our townships and in our poor working communities, and that is where we as Fight to Fame will help regenerate interest in Boxing, through this exhibition fight,” added Fransman.

“This should be my last fight … unless Raheem wants another rematch, lol,” quipped Funeka.

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