As he closes in on a world title shot, the rising 154-pound sensation aims to make a statement against Carlos Ocampo Saturday night on SHOWTIME.
“The Towering Inferno” is a 1974 disaster movie about an out-of-control conflagration in the uppermost floors of an especially high skyscraper during its dedication ceremony. It starred two flaming-hot screen legends in Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, and its production was of such high quality that it earned eight Academy Award nominations and won three Oscars.
For those inclined to seek parallels between that old movie and its current namesake, uncommonly tall super welterweight contender Sebastian “The Towering Inferno” Fundora, the similarities are obvious. At 6-foot-5½” and with an 80-inch reach that more than a few NBA players might envy, Fundora, a lean but hardly scrawny southpaw, possesses physical advantages over almost every 154-pounder that might step inside the ropes to face him. He is a hotter commodity now than most of this recently past summer has been in his desert residence of Coachella, Calif., and his Newman and McQueen equivalents are his fists, most notably the right hand that delivers the ripping uppercut which his father/trainer, Freddy Fundora, calls the “hot shot,” the kind of signature punch that defines the best work of certain fighters, as did, say, the late Smokin’ Joe Frazier’s left hook or Deontay Wilder’s straight right.
“Most of the fighters he’ll be facing are going to be shorter than him, and they’ll be charging him,” the elder Fundora said of his 24-year-old son’s preferred calling card. “They pretty much fall into the uppercut all by themselves.”
After his most recent following of a familiar script with a familiar ending, a ninth-round stoppage of the formidable Erickson Lubin on April 9 hastened by another damaging blow from below that found the mark, Sebastian Lubin said, “The uppercut is my lucky punch. It lands most of the time, with everybody. Southpaw. Right hand. It doesn’t matter. Once I (land) that I feel like the job’s done.”
It remains to be seen if Mexico’s 5-foot-10½” Carlos Ocampo (34-1, 22 KOs) falls into the same trap that has ensnared so many others when he takes the elevator all the way up to the figurative penthouse occupied by Fundora (19-0-1, 13 KOs) in Saturday night’s Premier Boxing Champion main event on SHOWTIME (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
At stake in the scheduled 12-rounder is Fundora’s WBC interim super welterweight title, but the matchup has more far-reaching implications. Fundora already is the mandatory WBC challenger to undisputed super welterweight ruler Jermell Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs). Every time Fundora takes a fight that isn’t against Charlo and for the full collection of jewel-encrusted straps, he risks slipping down the totem pole should he fail to keep doing what he has done from the start of his career, save for a split draw with fellow southpaw Jamontay Clark on Aug. 31, 2019. But sitting idly while waiting on a potential brawl for them all isn’t Fundora’s style. He believes in the hoary dictum that fighters improve by fighting, a relentless work ethic passed along to him by his Cuban-born dad. And the tougher the task, the more beneficial the lesson learned.
“All these fights I’ve had, certainly the last six or seven, have been tough fights,” Fundora said of his willingness to keep putting himself to the test, which includes being floored himself in the seventh round of his bout with Lubin. “They’ve been challenges, and we’ve been passing them. We haven’t snuck up on anybody.
“ With the Charlo fight, it’s just a waiting game. ” Unbeaten Super Welterweight Contender - Sebastian Fundora
“Now we’re the mandatory for the WBC and it’s all because of hard work. We’re just waiting for (the showdown with Charlo) now. Of course, we have to take care of this fight first. But after that I just go back to waiting. We’re going to stay busy, though. We’ll stay busy for however long we have to wait. With the Charlo fight, it’s just a waiting game.”
It also potentially is a “weighting” game. Although Fundora professes to have the patience to remain as long as he needs to at super welter, his uniquely proportioned body might eventually send him another message. The great Thomas Hearns was also deemed to be a physical anomaly during his reign of terror at welterweight, but the “Hitman” was just 6-foot-1, taller than most of his opponents and certainly an inferno as a destructive force, but he continued to bulk up incrementally, eventually topping out at cruiserweight. Might the same route, at least to some limited degree, be in store for Fundora?
“I’ve always been tall,” Fundora said. “In school I was always taller than my classmates. I did have a growth spurt in middle school, when I was 13. I was about 6 feet, 6’1”. Then I had another growth spurt in high school, to 6’5½”, 6’6”, whatever they say I am. But I haven’t grown since. I’ve grown wider, if anything.
“Right now I’m comfortable at 154, but who knows? Maybe after this fight I’ll jump up to 168. But right now I’m at 154, I’m comfortable at this weight. I walk around at this weight. I don’t shoot up too heavy during my breaks. The heaviest I’ve been is, like, seven pounds over (154), never anything crazy.”
In a sport that is always in need of breakout stars, Fundora seemingly has the right stuff to command expanding public attention, and not only because he has certain heavyweight dimensions in a super welter’s package. He is continually embellishing his reputation as a risk-taking, action-craving fan favorite, and he makes no secret that he likes to mix it up with opponents bold enough to meet him in the center of the ring. Asked if there are any current or past fighters he admires, he said, “I just like fighters that punch. I like fighters that can crack.”
Fundora unapologetically likes to crack back himself. Punch statistics compiled by CompuBox reveal that he ranks first in his weight class in punches landed per round (24.2%), overall connect percentage (33.4%) and power punches thrown per round (54.8%). His 72.4 punches thrown per round are second only to Brian Castano’s 75.5. What also stands out, especially for someone with an 80-inch reach, is that he throws only 18 jabs per round and lands only two, both last among super welters.
Almost as interestingly, Fundora said any references to the 48-year-old film that led to the nickname that has been conferred onto him without his knowledge or consent don’t necessarily apply.
“I have no feelings toward it,” said boxing’s Towering Inferno. “Honestly, I only found out about the movie after I was nicknamed. I still haven’t watched it. A lot of people have recommended that I do. It’s a great movie, but I don’t really watch a lot of movies. The only movies I really watch are, like, the Marvel ones.
For a closer look at Sebastian Fundora, check out his fighter page.