Lee Groves

10: Notable Valentine’s Day fights

3. 2009 – Nate Campbell W 12 Ali Funeka, BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise, Florida

Just months after Campbell lost a $400,000 payday after Joan Guzman failed to make weight, “The Galaxxy Warrior” lost the WBA, IBF and WBO belts he won from Juan Diaz 11 months earlier the exact same way. Because he was on his target weight coming into the week – 139 – Campbell was convinced he would sweat off the necessary poundage by the weigh-in. That belief was bolstered by the fact that, after a workout in a health club steam room shortly before the weigh-in, he scaled 134.6 on their scale. But when he stood on the official scale he initially weighed 138½ — three-and-a-half pounds over the lightweight limit. Campbell’s failure was made complete when he could only shed one additional pound, but unlike Campbell-Guzman, the show would go on.

One fight that was cancelled was Ricardo Mayorga-Alfredo Angulo because “El Matador” had gone missing shortly before the bout. Thus, Campbell-Funeka was elevated to main event status while Cosme Rivera filled in for Mayorga at the last minute. The other co-feature of the HBO tripleheader saw Sergio Martinez “draw” with Kermit Cintron, a bout that most thought “Maravilla” clearly won.

Meanwhile, the three possible scenarios surrounding Campbell-Funeka were crystal-clear: If Funeka won, he’d take the three belts back to South Africa but if Campbell prevailed – or if the fight ended in a draw – they all would be declared vacant – and given this era’s boxing politics, they’d probably remain divided for decades.

Campbell-Funeka was a fight of extreme contrasts. The 6-1 Funeka stood six inches taller than Campbell but his 72-inch reach was only two inches longer. Despite scoring four knockdowns during his four-round KO over Zahir Raheem last time out, the bulk of Funeka’s game was based on volume and while Campbell won his belts by going punch-for-punch with the high-octane Juan Diaz, Campbell’s best asset was his ferocious body punching.

Funeka won the first round by stringing together light combinations but Campbell more than trumped that in the second with a booming overhand right to the temple that floored Funeka just after the halfway point. Funeka managed to survive until the bell, then showed his mettle by winning rounds four through seven with his persistent volleys. Campbell closed the distance in round eight and landed several body blasts while Funeka’s quantity trumped Campbell’s quality in rounds nine and 10.

With the result still in the balance Campbell, though already shorn of his belts, closed the show in championship style. A huge overhand right to the temple hurt Funeka badly and the South African tried to prevent a knockdown call by pulling Campbell down with him. Referee Tommy Kimmons wasn’t fooled and properly administered the mandatory eight count. In the 12th Campbell tore his way inside and ripped away at the body with both hands until the final bell.

South African judge Deon Dwarte saw the fight even at 113 while American Michael Pernick (115-111) and Canadian Benoit Roussel (114-112) awarded the bout to Campbell – and with that the tie that bound the three belts together vanished into the ether.

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