Like George Foreman‚ ‘Rush Hour’ Funeka still has a punch to knock out ‘Big Bear’ Nogogo

08 March 2019 - 11:25 By Bongani Magasela
Promoter of the year Ayanda Matiti during the 2018 Boxing SA Awards at Boardwalk Casino and Hotel on February 02, 2018 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Promoter of the year Ayanda Matiti during the 2018 Boxing SA Awards at Boardwalk Casino and Hotel on February 02, 2018 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Image: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images

Boxing SA’s reigning 2017 promoter of the year award winner Ayanda Matiti says he really does not understand the obsession over Ali “Rush Hour” Funeka’s age‚ which has attracted more attention than the fighter’s trade and abilities as a boxer.

Matiti – a former professional boxer – was responding to a question over whether he really believes that Funeka – who turns 41 on March 23 – still has what it takes as a fighter.

Matiti has matched him with a 20-year-old rookie Uyanda “Big Bear” Nogogo. Their bout will form part of Matiti’s tournament to take place at Orient Theatre on Sunday‚ March 17.

For the record‚ Funeka‚ the rangy boxer from Mdantsane‚ is one of the accomplished fighters from this country.

He has held the SA junior lightweight‚ WBC International lightweight‚ WBF junior welterweight‚ and IBO and WBO Africa welterweight titles.

Funeka has been a professional boxer for 23 years and won 39 of his 52 matches. But of late he has given an impression of someone who is no longer able to evade punches as skilfully as he used to in his heyday.

“Really‚ I am not sure why the attention on Ali’s age though. He is a licensee‚” Matiti said.

“The onus is on Ali‚ not me‚ on what I think. I match-make bouts and I believe this one has people talking.

“Look‚ Mzonke Fana knocked out Xolani Mcotheli when Mzonke was 42 years old. The boxer can have what takes on the ability of art and science.

“Ali could be outclassed or knocked out by Nogogo because Nogogo has a particular style or Ali can prove too difficult to Nogogo.”

Indeed it happened on November 5. 1994 when 45-year-old George “Big George” Foreman – who had retired in 1993 – came back to knock out 27-year-old Michael “Double M” Moorer to claim the WBA and IBF heavyweight belts. Moorer had been undefeated in 36 bouts with 28 short-route victories.

Some of his wins were against the likes of Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield‚ Bert Cooper and James Pritchard. Moorer – a former WBO holder – had actually won both the WBA and IBF belt from Holyfield on April 22 in 1994.

Many people‚ including boxing fundis‚ had forgotten about Foreman’s capabilities especially as a knockout artist. He had previously knocked out 67 opponents.

Funeka‚ who boasts 31 knockouts‚ can do the same if he connects. Nogogo‚ who won the IBF Youth belt in July last year‚ has a single loss in seven fights.

Added Matiti: “I like discussing possibilities in the ring. Nogogo is 20 years old and Ali is 40 years.

“I am enjoying what is happening on social media regarding views on what could happen. I know for sure that the two boxers are also enjoying it.

“The two boxers have signed contracts. I am not only happy but excited. This is a compelling fight. Do I know who will win? The answer is ‘No’.”

Matiti’s line-up includes the eagerly-awaited rematch between Sabelo Ngebiyana and Sikho Nqothole whose first clash was won by the Johannesburg-based Ngebiyana from Cape Town‚ who captured the WBA Pan junior bantamweight belt in Swaziland on November 2.

According to Matiti‚ their 12-rounder will be for the vacant Legends Boxing Federation International title. Action will begin at 2pm.