ALI Funeka's chance to enjoy territorial advantage when he fights for the IBF lightweight title has gone up in smoke.
Rolando Reyes, the US fighter who was to oppose him for the vacant title in East London in April, has pulled out. The withdrawal has also hit promoter Branco Milenkovic, whose Branco Sports Productions was to present the fight.
Milenkovic won the bid of $140000 (R1,07million) to stage the bout. He said yesterday that he had already paid a deposit of $33000 (R250000).
"The money has gone down the drain," he said angrily. "It is very strange that Reyes turned down this opportunity."
Milenkovic said the IBF had sanctioned Joan Guzman - rated fourth below Funeka - to fight the South African. Funeka and the Dominican Republic's Guzman will meet for the second time for the belt. Their first fight, last November, was a draw.
Butityi Konki, who manages Funeka, said Guzman had agreed and that negotiations were under way. The fight is scheduled for March 27.
"The fact that this fight has attracted huge interest from HBO, the biggest US network, means it is likely to be held in the US," Konki said.