“I’m trying to fight as many times as possible this year,” Sebastian Fundora told the assembled media in Carson, California. His words are punctuated with a beaming smile that has become synonymous with the 154-pounder, a further paradox to the way he plies his trade as a fighter.
Fundora (20-0-1, 13 KO) takes on Brian Mendoza (21-1, 15 KO) this Saturday night on Showtime looking to edge closer to a world title opportunity in the exciting light-middleweight division.
I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing the 25-year-old on numerous occasions over the years and his charm hasn’t dissipated. The Coachella resident has improved in front of the camera and under the lights in sync with his performances in the ring and is knocking on the door of superstardom.
“I’m always ready to go,” he continued. “There are superstars who don’t care for the sport. They look at this more as a job. Once you start thinking of this as a job, you might as well not even do it anymore. That’s my take on this because if you get hurt for something that’s just a job, it’s not worth it.”
A happy fighter is a dangerous fighter, and Fundora appears to have found that sweet spot nestled in between the sport and the business. His tight family unit grounds his 6’6” frame and in every reference to his career he responds with an “us” rather than a self-centred singular.
“They keep me humble,” he explained to me in a previous encounter. “The first thing I will do when I get back from a fight is clean the dishes for my mother. I get no special treatment around here. We are all fighters, after all.
“I am just a cog in the family wheel. Everybody has their own part and everyone wears their own hat. I wouldn’t be where I was if it wasn’t for my family.”
The hat that Fundora will be wearing this Saturday is that of a sizeable favourite against “La Bala.” He is far too polite and well-mannered to talk smack about his 22nd professional opponent, but he is determined to continue putting on a show.
He understands that — perhaps due to his unusual height in the division — eyes will gravitate towards his contests and he needs to capitalise with entertainment so that they return.
“They keep putting guys in front of me who they say will knock me out or expose me, but I keep proving them wrong,” he explained. “I think the way we’re going is pretty good. I guess people need to tune in a little more. We need to put on more exciting fights. Put us in with people that are going to make exciting fights.”
A good example of that was his outing against Erickson Lubin a year ago this weekend. Fundora touched the canvas for the first time against the seasoned American but rallied to secure a ninth round knockout in a 2022 Fight of the Year contender.
“Lubin was a top contender,” he said. “That made for a great fight. We have all of these other names in the division, like Castano, or Charlo, to make these great fights. I just need a good dancing partner.
“We’ll see what the future holds for us, because they’re going to have to fight us, or step out of the way. That’s my attitude: they are going to have to fight us. The goal is to keep winning.”
The faith he shows in his team, headed up by his father Freddy Fundora, is evident as he discusses the prospect of fighting Mendoza. He doesn’t obsess over tapes or previous fights; his team will prepare him as they see fit.
“Mendoza looked pretty strong against (Jeison) Rosario, but we’re ready for anything he brings,” he added. “I didn’t watch the fight. I watched the highlights of him dropping Rosario twice. Everything is good. I’ve been walking around these last few weeks at around 158, 159 lbs.
“If I ever have concerns about my weight then my father is always there to remind me that we’re in a good place and everything happens for a reason. Our time will come. It’s as simple as that. I want to continue fighting and giving the fans what they want, and if we can, hopefully, we can get a title fight.”