CAPE TOWN – The USA’s Zahir Raheem is keen on having a second crack at his former opponent, Ali Funeka (40-11-3).
That fourth-round IBF eliminator KO suffered at the Jan Smuts Stadium in East London back in 2008 does not sit well with “King Raheem” (35-3) and he would love to get that “W” back from the former South African star.
“When I fought Funeka, I was severely dehydrated and sleep deprived. I was not 100!” says the former Olympian and Lightweight boxing star.
“Funeka is the only clear loss on my record. I have sent him a message via video and he replied, ‘It’s on’, so I am preparing to return to one of my favourite countries in the world,” says the 44-year-old American who last fought in 2014 against Bayan Jargal.
Raheem beat Jargal via unanimous decision, his sixth victory in a row after that loss to Funeka (the only KO loss in his pro career with two unanimous decision Ls to his name).
“My team and I were treated very well in South Africa – with the exception of Funeka, Lol!
“I went to the beach & I went on a wildlife safari and the experience was one in a lifetime,” says Raheem.
Funeka (42-years-old) last fought in 2019 against Abass Baraou in a bout that he lost via TKO, but Raheem firmly believes that both men are capable of putting on another show for the fans – be it in the talent-filled city of East London, or elsewhere.
“I am looking forward to seeing my South African brothers and sisters once again.
“Ali, too, is my brother and we shared the same dreams and goals of becoming the best, only to provide for our families,” says the happily married husband and father of three, living in Philadelphia.
Raheem (a big name himself) fought some of the finest names in boxing including Rocky Juarez (lost via unanimous decision) and Erick Morales (Raheem won via unanimous decision).
“My biggest fight was against 2004 Olympic silver medalist Rocky, I won that fight on HBO but I wasn’t given the decision, but the world witnessed that bad decision,” he adds.
Morales defeated boxing icon, Manny Pacquiao in their first fight.
Since crossing paths with former South African Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation and now Fight to Fame Africa chairperson, Marius Fransman, Raheem feels that there is no better platform to make this show than Fight to Fame.
“I have become acquainted with Chief Marius Fransman and Fight to Fame, and I am all for what the show is about – fighting for equality, principles, unity and opportunities for the less fortunate – the same things the honourable Nelson Mandela fought for. And with that being said, I will be donating a portion of my earnings from the fight towards a great cause of unity,” added Raheem.
“The challenge that Zahir has thrown out to a very well-known South Africa boxer and former opponent in Ali Funeka all lines up for a great exhibition event,” says Fransman.
“Fight to Fame will do what we can to support it so that South Africans can reconnect with boxing again. Traditional boxing is very, very strong in our townships and in our poor working communities, and that is where we as Fight to Fame will help regenerate interest in Boxing, through this exhibition fight,” added Fransman.
There certainly has been a big revival in boxing across the world and South Africa with the growing interest in combat sport, but it will always be known that East London – the place where Funeka and Raheem first clashed – is home to a hotbed of talented boxers and boxing families.
Fight to Fame is the new reality show set to launch in South Africa that will see combat sport athletes from all backgrounds compete for a Hollywood production contract.
The model which is based on blockchain, movies and sport will see athletes take part in various stunts, assessments and obstacle courses with the aim of becoming the next big action star.
The show is driven with the motivation that too little combat sport athletes are given the chance to use their skills and athleticism on the movie network – thus providing combat sport athletes with a fair chance of cracking it on the big screen.
For more details, visit https://www.fight2fame.com