Sharkie's Machine: Nate Campbell and Ali Funeka star in, “The African Judge Who Got It Right”
By Frank Gonzalez Jr., exclusive to Doghouse Boxing (Feb 15, 2009)  
Saturday in Florida, Nate Campbell (33-5-1, 25 KO’s) lost his WBA, IBF and WBO Lightweight titles at the weigh-in, where he came in at 137, two full pounds over the contracted weight limit to fight six-foot-one inch tall, Ali Funeka (30-2-2, 25 KO’s) who would have taken home those titles…had he won the fight. Well, Funeka didn’t win and neither did Campbell according to this fan, who scored the fight even at 113-113; same as the South African Judge, Dean Dwarte.

This proved ironic for Campbell, who lost a reported 400 thousand dollars when Joan Guzman came in overweight for their scheduled fight just a few months ago. Though Campbell ’s camp was willing to allow Guzman to fight anyway, Guzman wasn’t interested and pulled out, leaving Campbell inactive for another few months.

Ali Funeka proved to be a very good boxer with respectable power, good technique and impressive stamina (considering all the punches he threw during 12 rounds of tough fighting).

I thought Funeka won the first round using his height, popping his jab and keeping Nate “The Galaxxy Warrior” out of the right orbit for scoring his power punches. Campbell landed a big right near the end of the round but Funeka took it in stride. Considering Campbell is but five-foot-seven, Funeka seemed to tower over him.

In the second round, Campbell made the proper adjustments and took the fight to the inside, where he took away Funeka’s height advantage, while successfully landing shots to the body and head. Campbell landed a glancing right that hit Funeka on the temple. A delayed reaction saw Funeka wobbled and then Campbell went after him, landing yet another big overhand right that saw Funeka go down. Campbell landed another big right to the head before the bell ended the round. 10-8 Campbell .

The third round saw Campbell continue to fight in close and focus on the body of Funeka. Campbell showed good defense, with his hands up in a peek-a-boo type offense that was effective to strike in close. Funeka smartly jabbed his way away and tried to bring the fight back to the center ring outside but Campbell kept him close and scored the better shots.

The fourth round was where the momentum shifted in favor of the taller man with the continuous jab, as Funeka worked from outside and was landing his jab often enough to take the round. Ref warned Funeka for ‘pushing down.’ Funeka stayed busy but Campbell managed to land some nice combinations late that might’ve stolen the round.

It was Funeka in charge by the fifth, as he fought tall, kept Campbell out of range and dictated the action with his jabs and combinations. Campbell ’s inside scoring was becoming less frequent, while Funeka outworked and out-boxed Campbell .

From rounds six through ten, Funeka out-hustled and out scored Campbell, who was slowing and appeared fatigued. Funeka had the better stamina and easily out-pointed Campbell for five straight rounds.

In the eleventh, Campbell realized that he was losing too many rounds and went into high gear at just about the time that Funeka’s stamina started to wane. Funeka tried to jab and move outside but Campbell landed another overhand right that sent Funeka to the canvas for a second time. Funeka got up quick enough and started to clinch and try to make it out of the round without further trouble. Though Campbell tried, he wasn’t able to close the show.

The final round saw Campbell go for the kill. Funeka did a lot of holding. Campbell landed a big right to the ear and suddenly it was a holding fest. Both guys were tired but Campbell managed to do more damage and win the final round, capping things off with a clean shot to the body of Funeka.

The official Judges scores read; Judge Dwarte had it 113-113. Judge Russell had it 114-112 for Campbell and Judge Pernick had it 115-111 for Campbell . The crowd murmured boo’s at the decision. Seems that a Draw would have been the right call but hey, a foreign fighter on American soil usually needs a knockout to win against a hometown fighter. We complain about it when it happens to our fighters abroad but I rarely hear a peep about it when we do it to outsiders.

Either way, on the books, Nate Campbell won by Majority Decision. Since he can’t make weight at 135 anymore, Nate’s moving up to the 140-pound division, one of the toughest in all of boxing. Jr. Welter is home to Ricky Hatton (IBO), Tim Bradley (WBC), Andreas Kotelnik (WBA), Juan Urango (IBF) and Kendall Holt, the WBO titlist. At 36, Campbell is no spring chicken but with his seasoned experience, tenacious style and big heart, I expect he’ll have some success at Jr. Welter.

As for the very tall, Ali Funeka, keep an eye out for this kid, he’s a really good boxer, who uses his height well. He’s going to be a dangerous proposition for any of the top guys at 135, like Juan Diaz, J.M. Marquez, Edwin Valero, Julio Diaz and whoever the powers that be decide will gobble up what was recently Nate’s collection of title belts. Time will tell.

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