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ALI "Rush Hour" Funeka will be hoping it's a case of third time lucky when he opposes Rolando Reyes here for the vacant IBF lightweight title in mid-April.
His two previous attempts at the title, against Nate Campbell in the US and against Joan Guzman in Canada, were marred by controversy.
Campbell won the fight, which took place on February 2 last year, via a majority decision but the title was declared vacant because the US fighter had failed to make the weight.
Nine months later, Funeka was robbed against Guzman.
Despite dominating the fight, it was declared a draw and the title remained vacant.
It was a dubious decision that was slated worldwide.
The IBF sanctioned Funeka to fight Reyes because Guzman is serving a medical suspension. Funeka is ranked third, two spots above Reyes. The number one and two spots are vacant.
Funeka's American promoters Gary Shaw and Cedrick Kushner had intended to present the fight in Mexico but Funeka's manager Butityi Konki turned down their offer of $50000 (R379615).
The fight went on purse bids and Konki convinced promoter Branco Milenkovic to bid. Milenkovic reluctantly did so and beat the Americans with a bid of US$104000 (R1050000), compared to Shaw and Kushner's $74000 (R570000).
It is the third time now that Milenkovic has outbid top American promoters. His first two victims were Bob Arum and Don King, the two Hall of Fame inductees.
Konki said he was delighted to have convinced Milenkovic to bid.
"He was totally not interested due to previous history. I got what I wanted," he said yesterday.
"If I had accepted Shaw and Kushner's bid, Ali was to fight in Mexico on February 6."
Milenkovic said he was interested in Ali's affairs because his SA promoter, Mzimasi Mnguni, kicked him out just after Funeka had won the IBF title eliminator on July 5 2008. Milenkovic staged that fight in East London.
Said Funeka yesterday: "I am excited and actually over the moon. I will win by a stoppage."