By Keith Idec
Jeff Horn had some difficulty with Ali Funeka, but ultimately overcame it Saturday to win by technical knockout.
The unbeaten Australian welterweight contender floored Funeka with a right hand early in the sixth round. Funeka reached his feet, but he stood on unsteady legs, which caused referee Marlon Wright to stop their scheduled 10-rounder 40 seconds into the sixth round at Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand.
The 28-year-old Horn improved to 16-0-1, scored his 11th knockout and moved closer toward landing a big fight. South Africa’s Funeka (39-6-3, 31 KOs) lost by knockout for just the second time in the 38-year-old veteran’s pro career, which began in September 1995.
“It was a tough fight,” Horn said in the ring following the fight. “He was so awkward and tall. It was definitely a new challenge I haven’t faced before, with all his experience.”
Promoter Bob Arum watched the fight from ringside, largely because two fighters Arum’s Top Rank Inc. promotes, New Zealand’s Joseph Parker and America’s Andy Ruiz, fought for the WBO world heavyweight title in the main event. Horn hopes he convinced Arum to give him a shot at Manny Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs), but admitted, “I’m not sure. It was very awkward fight.”
Horn has hand speed and power, but seemingly would be overmatched against even this aged version of the Filipino superstar, who’ll turn 38 on December 17.
Funeka floored Horn at the very end of the third round after connecting with a short right hand to Horn’s body. An accidental clash of heads occurred at the same time Funeka landed the aforementioned body shot, which made it tough to determine whether the clash of heads or body shot was primarily responsible for Horn hitting the canvas.
Nonetheless, Horn quickly answered Wright’s count and the round ended shortly thereafter.
“I think it was the head clash,” Horn said of what caused the knockdown. “I felt his elbow or his head.”
Horn seemed to have recovered by the start of the fourth round. About a minute into the fourth, another accidental clash of heads caused a long cut over Funeka’s left eyebrow.
Horn, who also suffered a cut around his right eye from an accidental head-butt in the fifth round, scored a knockdown of his own with about 40 seconds to go in that same fifth round. Horn seemed to push Funeka to the canvas, but it was counted as a knockdown.
Funenka finished the round, yet quickly found himself in trouble once the sixth round started.
About 20 seconds into that round, Horn drilled Funeka with a short right hand to the chin that floored Funeka again. Funeka got up, but once his legs wobbled Wright stopped the fight with Funeka on his feet.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.